Evergreen’s Joyce E. McConnell ’79 makes history as Colorado State University’s first female president

Joyce McConnell

The Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System voted unanimously today 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.


About the Presidential Search


The Board announced Provost McConnell as the finalist for the presidency March 15, and the March 29 vote followed a statutorily required notice and waiting period before deciding to appoint McConnell as president. The Board’s selection followed a highly competitive five-month nationwide search guided by a 16-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee chaired by Nancy Tuor, vice chair of the Board of Governors. The advisory committee represented key stakeholder groups, including tenured and non-tenure-track faculty, students, alumni, administrative professional and state classified staff, the Board of Governors, community leaders, and more.


“Joyce McConnell represents everything CSU is, and aspires to be, as the land grant university for the future,” said Diana Wall, a University Distinguished Professor, director of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability, and a faculty representative on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC). “She has proven herself as an energetic, savvy champion of inclusion and academic research excellence, and of bringing disciplinary partners together to meet sustainability challenges on campus and globally.”


After gathering input from the campus and community in a variety of ways, including nine public input forums, the advisory committee worked with Parker Executive Search to develop a candidate profile and job description. Following recruitment of a deep and diverse pool of potential candidates, the committee considered and interviewed applicants, and then recommended qualified candidates for consideration by the Board of Governors, which was the hiring authority.


“I’m excited for Provost McConnell to come on as the first woman to be president of CSU,” said Tiffani Kelly, assistant director of CSU’s Native American Cultural Center and a member of the PSAC. “I really appreciate her focus on student success and her passion for creating access to higher education, given how transformative higher education can be in our communities.”


Tristan Syron, president of Associated Students of Colorado State, served as the PSAC’s student representative. “I’m confident that Joyce McConnell will always have the students’ best interest at heart,” Syron said. “I also think Provost McConnell’s talent and ambition are perfect to guide CSU beyond the university’s 150th anniversary.”


McConnell is a graduate of Evergreen State College and Antioch School of Law and was a graduate teaching fellow at Georgetown University Law School. She earlier served as a faculty member and associate dean at WVU prior to leading the law school, faculty member at City University of New York School of Law, and visiting professor at University of Maryland School of Law. Her full curriculum vitae is available online.


Joyce McConnell is married to Vince Trivelli, who is an attorney. They have one daughter, Alexandra McConnell-Trivelli, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is an events coordinator.

Photo provided by Colorado State University.