Get to Know Dave Walter
Although he's had a long career in higher education, finding a place in CAM, an arts school, was a bit of a surprise for Dave Walter.Nov 2, 2022
Dave Walter is originally from Cheyenne, Wyoming. As the Director of Enrollment Management and Summer Programs in the College of Arts & Media (CAM), Walter has a very robust response to the question “why should I go to school at CU Denver?” due in part to his familiarity with higher education. His career in higher education started with the Federal TRIO Education Programs and went on to include positions at the University of Kansas, San Jose State University, and Stanford University. Walter moved to Denver in 2014 to fill the role of director of the newly created LYNX National Arts & Media Camps. Moving from the San Francisco Bay area, Walter and his partner were attracted to Denver for the lower housing costs, great city culture, and proximity to outdoor recreation opportunities. One of the perks of Walter’s job is he gets to stay connected to and support CAM alumni who are involved in bands like Wildermiss, Flobots, 2MX2, and Neoma. When he’s not working, Walter likes to play boardgames (he even plays online backgammon “somewhat competitively”), partake in Colorado’s hiking and winter-sport scene, and hang out with his family, which includes two children.
- What role do the arts play in your day-to-day life?
Although my career focus has always been in higher education and student services, I kind of stumbled upon this role in CAM. What I've realized in my time at CAM is how much I love the arts, and I've really developed a greater appreciation for filmmakers, musicians, and artists. Prior to 2014, I wouldn't have sought out a job in a college of arts & media but I'm so glad that I ended up at CAM. It's been a great career fit for me. I've always loved music, film, and art as a consumer. Listening to music, going to concerts, and watching TV series and movies have always been hobbies of mine and they are even more so now. I love supporting our CAM students and alumni!
- What makes CU Denver unique from other schools?
The thing that stands out the most is how career-focused we are. Our downtown location is ideal for this because our students can be involved in the Denver industry while they study. Everyone at CU Denver really leans into this and the career focus has just become a bigger part of our culture than at most universities. Addition factors include the fact that our faculty are mostly practitioners (doers) as opposed to strictly academics; the contemporary and hands-on production focus of our CAM programs; the great diversity of our campus. Students from all backgrounds are welcome and appreciated. I also love that equity is a priority goal for the University.
- What have your past professional and personal experiences taught you about working with people—specifically with young people?
One of the biggest things that I've learned during my career is the importance of listening. It's important to find out what a young person is really passionate about and is looking for in their college experience. It is also important to learn what they are excited about and what they are nervous about when thinking about college. Once you know this information, it's much easier to guide them about whether CU Denver will be a good fit for them and if so, to help get them connected to the right faculty, staff, and fellow students at the college who will help get them off to a great start.
- What do you think is the advantage of having a degree in the arts in today’s job market?
I think earning an arts degree can be more beneficial than ever for students today. It has to be the "right" arts degree, though, and by that I mean that the classes need to be career relevant and students need to get professional experiences and connections while earning their degrees. This is why the cohort program structure and career focus of CAM are so important. Our student graduate with eight semesters of arts coursework that has built on itself the whole way. They also get to make strong connections with the faculty and other students in the program. CAM doesn't have many graduate programs, so our faculty are able to focus on undergraduate teaching and mentoring.
An example of arts degrees growing in career importance are how digital artists have thrived through the pandemic. While many more traditional jobs were lost, digital artists saw increased demand as computer, app, video, and gaming content surged in popularity. This trend toward more people interacting digitally was already happening prior to the pandemic and the pandemic just sped it up. Increased demand for digital artists, designers, filmmakers, and animators is likely to continue as computer applications continue to improve the possible technology uses and consumers demand more content. Growing job areas like video games, virtual reality, and the metaverse are sure to be big employers of arts graduates moving forward.
- What is your favorite part about the LYNX camps?
My favorite part of the camps is seeing the students bond over their shared love of the arts. It is so exciting seeing students show up from all over the country during the first day of the camp. Many of the students don't know anyone else coming into it and then within days they've often made many friends. Students bond so fast when they have common artistic interests. Many students report that the friendships they made at the camp last for years after it.
Sometimes it takes some staff interventions to help students make friends. Last summer there was a music industry program student who was really feeling sad after the first morning because he saw so many other students connecting but he hadn't made any friends yet. I gave him a pep talk about how everyone is different and makes friends in their own way. We also encouraged staff and other camp students to reach out to support him. It worked, and by the next day he had a small friend group. It continued to grow from there and he left the camp with lots of new friends. It was so wonderful to see the smile on his face for the rest of the camp. You could tell that the camp made a big impact on him, both musically and socially. His confidence had grown so much. Stories like that are what make the LYNX Camps so special!
I love seeing the students’ faces light up when they get inspired and realize that their passion could truly turn into a career if they are willing to work hard and commit to it. An example of this was when CAM alum Isaac Slade (lead singer of The Fray) was a guest artist at our Music Industry Camp in 2018. I was initially told by his agent that he would only be speaking to the students about his career and wouldn't be playing any music. However, when Isaac showed up, he had his guitar and one of the first things he said was to ask if he could play a few songs. I was like "Of course!!". In his presentation he provided the students with great advice from his music industry career and played some of his songs on guitar. He even told them that some of The Fray's songs were written in the CU Denver practice rooms! Isaac ended the presentation by inviting the students to the stage to gather around the piano while he played "Over My Head". It was an incredible moment that no one who was there will ever forget!