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Incoming CSU President Joyce McConnell eager for fall semester

Joyce McConnell is history in the making. 

As the first female president at Colorado State University, President McConnell has traded in West Virginia University’s blue and gold for CSU’s green and gold. 

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“I am proud to be the first woman to serve as president of CSU,” wrote McConnell in a letter to The Collegian. “Why am I proud? Women are powerful, and women are smart, and they can lead extraordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. As the president of CSU, I really get to demonstrate that — and I’m proud to do so.”

Background 

McConnell grew up going to museums and historical sites, experiencing major events and protests from the 1960s and ’70s, such as Watergate and Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington. 

“My parents, both military veterans, encouraged us children to get out of the house, explore the world and learn everything we could,” McConnell wrote. “So from a really young age, I have thought of myself as an explorer and adventurer, whether in the pages of a book, in the museums in D.C., on a hiking trail or just in my imagination.”

She headed west to attend Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington — 2,800 miles away from her hometown in Maryland, located just outside of Washington, D.C. In 1979, she graduated with an undergraduate degree. 

In 1995, McConnell traveled from her hometown in Maryland to pursue a position as an assistant professor of law at WVU. In 2008, she was appointed dean of the law school, improving upon both the school and the building, according to SOURCE. In six years, she fundraised $38 million for the building’s renovation and expansion. 

After graduation, she pursued a career in law, finishing her degree from Antioch Law School in 1982 and also completing a Master of Laws from Georgetown University Law Center. From there, she began working at a private practice before being named a graduate teaching fellow at the same institution she acquired her ML. 

With both teaching and leading experience under her belt, she was asked to become provost of WVU. At first, she was less than enthusiastic. She wanted to remain the dean of the law school. It took much convincing, but she finally agreed to accept the position in 2014. 

She is now married with a daughter, Alexandra McConnell-Trivelli.

What makes me proud to be a CSU Ram is the people who make up this incredible learning community.” Joyce McConnell, 15th president of CSU

The CSU presidency

Becoming the president of CSU is no small feat, but McConnell is up for the challenge. She places importance on diversity and inclusion, agriculture, athletics and fundraising. 

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As a long-time LGBTQ+ advocate, McConnell provided a safe space for students at WVU. During her time as a law professor, LGBTQ+ students did not feel comfortable enough to gather together on campus, according to T. Anne Hawkins, clinical director of the WVU counseling center, so McConnell opened up her home for their meetings. 

Agriculture has been a large part of CSU since its establishment in 1870, as seen in the original name — Colorado Agricultural College. The land-grant mission is a foundational piece of the University because of the financial contribution in the founding of CSU.

President McConnell says she will be combining the knowledge she received from working with the agricultural community as provost at WVU and her devotion to the land-grant mission to maintain the fundamental values for CSU. 

Coming from a Division I school, McConnell supports the role athletics have on a college campus. She wrote that she believes they bring a sense of community and include people who wouldn’t normally gather to celebrate. Students, staff, faculty, parents and alumni are able to come together in support of their team and school. 

President McConnell has been a primary fundraiser in different campaigns at WVU, including raising money for the renovation and expansion of the building that housed the law school. One of her larger fundraising successes was helping raise $1.2 billion for WVU’s “State of Minds” campaign. 

To begin this new chapter, McConnell wants to embrace old philosophies she has stood by throughout her life believing in and respecting people and providing the resources for people to achieve their dreams and aspirations. 

“What makes me proud to be a CSU Ram is the people who make up this incredible learning community,” McConnell wrote. “We are committed to sustainability, to ensuring access to education and to figuring out how we can work together — in the classroom, in the lab, out in the field — to develop innovations and solutions to some of our world’s toughest challenges.”

Laura Studley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurastudley_

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