The Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System voted unanimously on March 29 to hire Joyce E. McConnell to lead the System’s flagship institution into its 150th year, building on a decade that has seen record levels of enrollment, donor and alumni support and research funding, along with the dramatic transformation of campus, physically and in terms of state and national reputation.
McConnell will become the 15th President of Colorado State University, the state’s land grant university. Currently serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University, McConnell, who will assume the top position at CSU on July 1, 2019, said she is honored to be selected to help lead what is an exceptional institution of higher education.
“CSU is a national leader in higher education, and the achievements of its students, faculty and staff collectively have built a powerful momentum and an upward trajectory of success for generations of Rams to come. I look forward to being a part of that journey with you,” McConnell said. “My decision to leave West Virginia and West Virginia University after more than 20 years of service to both the university and the state was not an easy one, but Colorado State University’s mission, values and character presented an irresistible opportunity to lead one of the nation’s great land-grant universities into the future.”
Rico Munn, chair of the CSU System Board of Governors, described McConnell as an experienced leader who has a deep passion for the work of higher education and the ability to bring together diverse groups in a common drive for excellence.
“In getting to know Provost McConnell through the search process, the Board was immensely impressed with both her outstanding credentials and with the way her personality and determination fit so well with CSU’s mission and character,” Munn said. “CSU has a uniquely qualified and truly exceptional next president, and the Board couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of this search.”
McConnell has served in her current roles as WVU’s provost and chief academic officer since July 2014. In those positions, her charge has had broad scope: overseeing university budgets; building partnerships with political, governmental, business and nonprofit leaders at the state, national, and international levels; and playing a lead role in fundraising. McConnell’s track record also includes tenure as dean of the College of Law at WVU, during which she spearheaded major fundraising and academic initiatives.
“Through higher education we can transform lives and tackle the toughest world challenges through a can-do, innovative spirit,” said McConnell. “The CSU community in particular is independent but always ready to lend a hand, surviving and thriving on innovative problem-solving but proud of tradition and accustomed to quietly accomplishing great things without being arrogant.”
McConnell led efforts at WVU to improve gender equity and Title IX education and compliance, engaged in higher-education policy work with the university’s board and state leaders, focused on raising faculty salaries, promoted excellence in research and graduate education, and played a key role in promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels.
She will succeed CSU’s current president, Tony Frank, who begins serving exclusively as chancellor of the CSU System July 1. Frank is in his 11th year as CSU president and will have served five years in the dual role of both president and chancellor.
“Joyce McConnell is absolutely the right person to join and lead the CSU community as president, and provide the inventive and inclusive leadership that will continue to bring out the best in this university. As chancellor, I welcome the opportunity to work with Joyce as she takes the reins in Fort Collins,” Frank said.
McConnell said President Frank leaves a strong legacy as a leader bolstered by a reputation for always striving to find where the university can do better.
“I know that everyone connected with this great institution is deeply grateful to President Frank not only for his extraordinary accomplishments on behalf of Colorado State but also for his graciousness and humor throughout the process of identifying his successor. He clearly loves this institution and this state, and I cannot thank him enough for entrusting me with the university’s future. I look forward to working with him in his Chancellor role.”
The Board and McConnell have agreed to a five-year employment agreement, effective July 1, under which McConnell will earn a base annual salary of $550,000.