Lesley Smith for CU Regent At Large

Exceptionally Qualified Leadership

Press photos available at the bottom of this page.




This scientist and educator has spent her career championing environmental education.

Recently retired as the Associate Director of Education and Outreach at CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science), local limnologist Lesley Smith remains a devoted advocate of scientific inquiry in the exploration of natural places. Along the way she has been a fierce advocate for conservation of those wild spots.

Smith began her work in the research of wetlands, both in the tropics of the Amazon and the alpine areas around Colorado. As an outreach scientist, she made it her goal to share not just the research, but the research process with students and teachers through innovative programs like EarthWorks, which brought teachers from around the country to Colorado in the summer to design, implement and share their own research question.

“I really liked working with teachers and getting them to teach inquiry-based science,” says Smith. “It’s the best way to develop critical thinking skills.”
Other programs, such as Lens on Climate Change, challenged students to interview scientists, review data, and create a film that highlights a specific aspect of a changing climate.

“I think we’re seeing more and more now that scientists are getting push-back. We can’t just live in our little bubble and expect government to fund research. We should be able to get out of our bubble and explain to people what we do and why it’s important and that science is critical to our community and society.”

Lesley Smith is currently running for the office of CU Regent At Large.

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Colorado politics Letter to the editor, March 15, 2018

‘I have the courage and energy to make CU a beacon’

Thank you, caucus goers. Congratulations county assembly delegates! You have some important decisions to make about which candidates best represent your values and interests.

I’m Lesley Smith, an exceptionally qaulified candidate running for University of Colorado regent at large, a statewide race. I’m the only candidate who has had a nearly 30-year career as a scientist and educator at CU, as well as an eight-year tenure on my local school board. I understand the role of the regents, similar to the role of school board — set the vision for our  flagship university system, oversee the president, and allocate the budget based on the values of our statewide community.

I plan to reach out across our state through local townhalls to learn how CU can best serve your children and your community. I was the first woman aquanaut to live and work in the Aquarius underwater research lab, and I was one of the few women students in my reaearch institution.

I have the courage and energy to make CU a beacon among public institutions. I will ensure that CU offers students an excellent, relevant education that equips them with workforce-ready skills. I will work to attract strong funding for a strong CU system, and I will fight for affordable, accessible pathways to success. I have the experience to make a difference in our state. If you see me at assembly, please say hello! I’d love to earn your vote.

Please visit my website to learn more about my campaign: LesleyForCU.org.

Lesley Smith
Candidate for CU regent at large




January 27, 2018


Democrat Dr. Lesley Smith announced her candidacy for the CU Regent At Large position. Lesley, 59, said, “My 30 years as a scientist and educator at CU, eight years of public service on my local school board, and pioneering experience as the first woman aquanaut at the underwater Aquarius research lab have prepared me to take on the challenges facing the CU system. I am honored and ready to vigorously pursue the opportunity to serve our wonderful state as a CU Regent.”

Lesley’s goals for the University of Colorado include offering an excellent, 
relevant education that prepares students for the workforce; providing all students affordable, equitable and accessible pathways to success; and working hard to
attract strong funding for a strong CU system.

Lesley graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) 
with a B.A. in Aquatic Biology. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland after completing a research project in the Brazilian Amazon where she had the responsibility for on-the-ground operations of a multi-million dollar project while pursuing her research.

Lesley has lived in Colorado since 1989. She works at CU Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES) where she worked as a Research Scientist and is currently Associate Director of CIRES Education & Outreach. She lives in Boulder with her spouse Michael, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) Together they have two adult children.

Colorado House Majority Leader KC Becker said, “I am happy to endorse Lesley Smith for the at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents. Not only does she have a solid understanding of the importance of the University of Colorado in our state, but she believes that all Colorado students deserve the opportunity to have a college education. Colorado’s economy depends on a well-educated work force and the best way for that to happen is to ensure that all students can acquire the education that they want.”

For additional information, contact:

Lesley Smith

"I am pleased to endorse Lesley Smith for this November's open statewide seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents. Lesley is a scientist who understands the necessity of using facts and research to change policy. Lesley would be the only regent with the knowledge of how CU operates from the bottom up. Because of Lesley’s extensive experience, she will “hit the ground running” and provide a unique perspective to the Board of Regents."
—Linda Shoemaker, CU Regent (CD-2

Photos of Lesley Smith

Images here are provided for press use. Click on thumbnails for high-resolution image download page. For more information, please contact Andrew at info@LesleyForCU.org