Joyce McConnell unanimously approved as CSU’s first female president

Natalia Sperry and Meagan Stackpool

The Colorado State University Board of Governors unanimously voted to approve Joyce McConnell as the next University president Friday morning. 

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McConnell, who was announced as the sole finalist for the position of CSU’s 15th president March 15, will be the first female to hold the position in the University’s history.

McConnell, currently the provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University, was selected after a five-month nationwide search by the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. She will assume the role July 1.

“My decision to leave West Virginia and West Virginia University after 20 years of service to both the university and the state has not been an easy one, but Colorado State University’s mission, values and character present an irresistible opportunity to lead one of the nation’s great land-grant universities into the future,” McConnell said.

The press conference began with President Tony Frank explaining the process the board took to find McConnell, following his announcement that he would step down and assume the full-time role of chancellor of the CSU System. After extensive conversations with students, faculty and staff, the job posting was finalized last December and CSU’s Presidential Search Committee began accepting applicants. 

After the committee narrowed down a pool of about 80 applicants, three were recommended to the Board of Governors, where McConnell was named a finalist.

McConnell expressed her gratitude to the board and the students. She also spoke about the legacy Frank will leave behind.

“(Frank) clearly loves this institution and this state, and I cannot thank him enough for entrusting me with the University’s future,” McConnell said.

McConnell said someone told her that she had some pretty big shoes to fill, to which she responded that her shoes are prettier.

After reading off an extensive list of accomplishments, including her time as a roadie for a rock band, Frank commented on McConnell’s references to highlight her achievements.

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“I know many of these people and they are not overly prone to saying nice things about people, and they have nothing but nice things to say about Joyce,” Frank said.

McConnell referenced a song by John Denver when she talked about her decision to come to Colorado.

“Although I am trading the Appalachians for the Rockies, and John Denver’s country roads of West Virginia for his Colorado Rocky Mountain high, I know I am among fellow travelers who believe that purpose astrive (sic) all we do,” McConnell said.

Joyce McConnell’s previous experience:

  • Overseeing university budgets
  • Establishing relationships with leaders at the state, national and international levels
  • Leading fundraising efforts and academic initiatives
  • Leading initiatives to improve gender equity and Title IX education and compliance
  • Focusing on raising faculty salaries
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion across the university

McConnell introduced her husband and daughter, who she said were both very supportive of her journey. McConnell said that when she was offered the job, having not been to the campus or the city, her husband told her, “Honey, how many people our age get to have an adventure?”

In an interview with The Collegian following the announcement, McConnell shared some of her goals for the University, saying that she hopes to push CSU “to the next level in innovation.”

“I really think that we need to think about the legacy of a land-grant and how to bump that up in terms of the 21st century, because Colorado is a place that’s really booming,” McConnell said. “I think that we can play a really huge role in that.”

McConnell also explained why she thought her appointment was an extraordinary step for women.

“I think it is a real testament to the fact that women can succeed, and succeed particularly to lead a land-grant institution in the United States,” McConnell said. “I am very passionate about higher education because I do believe it literally transforms lives, families, communities and the state, and to be a part of that is very, very important to me.”

Meagan Stackpool can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MeaganStackpool. Natalia Sperry contributed to this report.