Joyce E. McConnell, who recently served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University, is the new leader of Colorado State University, the state’s land-grant institution and flagship of the CSU System.
On July 1, McConnell starts her term as CSU’s 15th president. She will lead Colorado State into its 150th anniversary, when the university will highlight its enduring land-grant mission of providing access to excellent education for students, pursuing scientific discoveries with global significance, and offering public service and outreach to boost the vitality of Colorado and its citizens.
She steps into the role at an eventful time: CSU is a top-tier research institution whose national reputation has surged along with notable strides in enrollment, graduation rates, research funding, private giving, and facilities expansion. The university has about 33,000 students and 7,600 faculty and staff.
“CSU is a national leader in higher education, and it has powerful momentum and an upward trajectory that can’t be stopped,” McConnell said at a meeting of the Board of Governors of the CSU System, as her appointment was confirmed. “Thank you all for giving me this remarkable opportunity to lead this institution. I’m so excited for all that we’re going to accomplish together.”
McConnell succeeds outgoing President Tony Frank, who begins serving as full-time chancellor of the CSU System on July 1. Frank is completing his 11th year as CSU president and will have served five years in the dual roles of campus president and System chancellor. As chancellor, he leads high-level initiatives involving the System’s three campuses – CSU, CSU-Pueblo, and CSU-Global; among the System’s priorities is development of a CSU campus at the forthcoming National Western Center in north Denver.
In late March, the System’s Board of Governors concluded a highly competitive five-month search by voting unanimously to hire McConnell from a pool of more than 80 candidates. She will be the first female president at CSU.
Rico Munn, chair of the Board of Governors and superintendent of Aurora Public Schools, described McConnell as an experienced leader with a deep passion for the work of higher education. She has the ability to unite diverse groups in a common drive for excellence, Munn said.
McConnell brings to CSU a wealth of experience as chief academic and budget officer at West Virginia’s land-grant university. Like Colorado State, WVU is a top-tier public research institution; it is home to professional schools of law, medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. There, McConnell has been responsible for the administration of academic policies, curriculum, budgetary matters, facilities, libraries, outreach programs, and research. She also has worked closely with policymakers and helped lead WVU’s recent $1.2 billion fundraising campaign.
McConnell is a lawyer who earned degrees at Evergreen State College, Antioch School of Law, and Georgetown University Law School. She worked for 20 years at West Virginia, starting as an associate professor of law. McConnell rose to dean of the WVU law school, then served as second-in-command with WVU President Gordon Gee, who was University of Colorado president in the late 1980s.
“I deeply believe in the power of education to transform lives and families,” McConnell said, after her appointment was finalized. “For 150 years, CSU has been creating the talent and research essential to Colorado’s prosperity. I am excited to bring my passion for this mission to CSU, Fort Collins, and Colorado and to continue to nurture the thriving spirit that created this university and is still evident today.”
“CSU is a national leader in higher education, and it has powerful momentum and an upward trajectory that can’t be stopped. Thank you all for giving me this remarkable opportunity to lead this institution. I’m so excited for all that we’re going to accomplish together.”
– JOYCE MCCONNELL