CEO, longtime CSU leader tapped as finalist for president of CSU Fort Collins

Amy Parsons—CEO of a global e-commerce company based in Denver, longtime Colorado State University leader, and former executive vice chancellor for the CSU System—has been named as the finalist in the search for the 16th president of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

The Board of Governors of the CSU System made the announcement today following a highly competitive nationwide search. The search was guided by a 31-person Search Advisory Committee representing key stakeholder groups, including tenured and non-tenure-track faculty, current students, alumni, administrative professional and state classified staff, members of the Board of Governors, agricultural industry representatives, business and community leaders, and more.

Board of Governors Chair Kim Jordan expressed thanks to the search committee for its work identifying a top-tier group from which to select the sole finalist. Thousands of stakeholders participated in the search process through surveys and listening sessions, she said.

“The search committee did an excellent job, allowing the Board to identify a finalist who is uniquely and exceptionally qualified,” Jordan said. “Amy has a deep personal commitment to CSU as an alumna and parent, and she’s held a series of critically important roles at CSU, as deputy general counsel, vice president, and executive vice chancellor – she also taught courses in the SAHE program. In other words, she understands the budgets, the legal landscape, the importance of academics, and the role of the university in the state, the System, and in students’ lives. She’s also demonstrated that she doesn’t shy away from even the most daunting challenges.”

Parsons served in senior executive leadership roles at CSU and the CSU System for 16 years before becoming the founding CEO of Mozzafiato LLC, an international e-commerce company, in 2020. She served as deputy general counsel and associate legal counsel at CSU Fort Collins from 2004-2009; as vice president for university operations at CSUFC from 2009-2015; and as executive vice chancellor of the CSU System from 2015-2020. While on campus, she also taught in the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s degree program.

As vice president, she helped navigate through the fiscal challenges of the Great Recession, led the first comprehensive salary equity survey to uncover and remedy gender-based inequities, and oversaw an historic physical transformation that included construction and renovation of state-of-the-art classroom buildings, parking structures, research facilities, and an on-campus stadium. As executive vice chancellor, she led System-wide initiatives, including creation of the CSU Spur campus at the National Western Center in Denver.

Jordan added: “As a Board, we were impressed by her private business background and also looked at her leadership success in building the Spur campus, in fundraising, in designing our Todos Santos Center in Mexico, in creating the Commitment to Campus program for employees on campus, in launching a whole set of strategic partnerships and plans, and in connecting with diverse people and industries across Colorado. All of this pushed her to the top of a very talented pool.”

Born in Colorado, Parsons grew up in Wyoming, where she participated in 4-H. She dreamed of attending CSU, and in her application for the presidency, she recounted working two jobs in the Lory Student Center to help pay her way through her undergraduate degree. She also served in the ASCSU student government and as a tour guide for Admissions, along with being selected to serve as a White House intern in Washington, D.C.

She graduated from CSU with a Bachelor of Political Science in 1995 and earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1999. Before joining the general counsel’s office at CSU, she worked from 1999-2004 as a litigation attorney for Denver-firm Brownstein, Hyatt, & Farber (now Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck).

“There is only one job that could entice me to leave my current role, and that’s this one,” Parsons said. “Much of my life and career have been wrapped up with CSU. My life was truly shaped by people who took the time to invest in me – people like Professor Bob Lawrence in Political Science and the maintenance crew I worked with as a student in the basement of the Lory Student Center. Now, as the parent of a current student, I’m gaining a whole new perspective on the opportunities and challenges we face. At its core, CSU is about access, excellence, and inclusion – and the dreams that education can make possible. It would be an immense privilege to be able to serve as the chief advocate and champion of this great university and to safeguard the success and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

In accordance with Colorado law, there is a mandatory 14-day notice and waiting period following the announcement of a finalist before the Board of Governors can enter into an employment agreement and announce an anticipated start date.

If approved by the Board, Parsons will succeed former President Joyce McConnell, who left the position in June. Dr. Rick Miranda, longtime CSU provost and chief academic officer for the CSU System, has served as interim president since McConnell left but did not apply for the permanent position.

The new president will step in at a time when the university is rebuilding after navigating through the global pandemic. This fall, CSU welcomed its largest and most diverse first-year class as it fully re-opened for in-person learning and work.

The 31-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee began the nationwide search in July. The Board of Governors also enlisted Parker Executive Search to assist with the effort, drawing on the firm’s experience conducting more than 2,000 national and international senior-level searches over the past 30 years for leading organizations in a variety of industries including higher education.

The Search Advisory Committee was chaired by Armando Valdez, vice chair of the Board of Governors. After gathering input from the campus and community in a variety of ways, including nine public input forums and stakeholder surveys, the committee worked with the search firm 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 arrived at a clear consensus on three qualified candidates, each of whom the committee felt could do the job. These candidates were forwarded to the Board of Governors, which is the hiring authority. The Board of Governors interviewed all three candidates, and after rigorous debate and reconsideration of input from numerous sources, the Board selected Parsons as the sole finalist.

“Being inclusive overall in the process was a primary goal of what we wanted to achieve,” Valdez said. “The large committee gave various stakeholder representation from different areas, and we definitely wanted that to respect the campus community and show people that their voices were represented in that room.”

Colorado State University in Fort Collins is the flagship institution of the CSU System, a doctoral-granting research university with a student body of nearly 30,000 students, where one out of four students is the first in their family to go to college. As the state’s only land-grant university, CSU has been serving Colorado since 1870. CSU Extension provides services to every county in Colorado, offering community-oriented education, research, and 4-H programs.

The CSU System also includes CSU Pueblo, a regionally focused, federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution; CSU Global, the nation’s first fully online public university; and CSU Spur, a non-degree-granting public campus at the National Western Center in Denver.

Amy Parsons’ curriculum vitae and cover letter to her application for the presidency are available on the search website.

Responses from the Community on the Candidate and Search Process

Dr. Lise Youngblade, Dean of Health and Human Sciences; Search Advisory Committee Member:

“I feel very good about the integrity of the search process and the Board’s decision. It was a very competitive interview process; we had 31 people on the search committee, with all sectors of the university represented, and all had an equal voice. We had a strong and sizeable pool of highly qualified candidates from which we selected our top candidates for airport interviews. Amy, in a word, slam-dunked the interview and straight-up earned this. This is my 17th year at CSU, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with Amy on the Early Childhood Center and other initiatives when she was on campus – I always found her to be innovative, creative, supportive, and willing to dig in to understand the issue, then confront the challenge with a ‘let’s go get it done’ attitude. She doesn’t come from a traditional academic background, but I am excited by the skills she brings.  Not only did she demonstrate her deep understanding and commitment to our campus and all parts of our mission, she brings tremendous connections to the CSU System and constituencies across the state.  As dean, I want someone in the President’s chair who is savvy about working with the public and our partners and stakeholders – who’s going to be a welcoming and inspiring external face for the institution, who will help us generate resources and continue to build our reputation for the excellent educational experiences we offer and the world-class research our faculty and graduate students conduct.  In my work with her, she’s always been a strong champion for the academic side of the house, and that commitment was forefront throughout her interview. I look forward to the strong team she’s going to build to help the university move forward into the future.”

Dr. Rick Miranda, Professor of Mathematics and CSU Interim President

“I was Provost and Executive Vice President at CSU when Amy became the VP for University Operations, and we embarked on a project to visit every room at the University. And we did it! It was quite eye-opening for both of us – not just to see the spaces but to really understand what was happening in those spaces. Walking the entire campus together was a real education and a critical point in our development as University leaders. Moreover, it’s a reflection of Amy’s leadership style: she wants to know what her people know so that she can really support them and enable them to do their best. Her time in Denver, working on the development of the Spur campus, helped to solidify her deep understanding of CSU’s access mission and our role in creating opportunity – economic, educational, and social opportunity – particularly for people in our state who have been marginalized. Having held the interim president’s position for the first half of the year, I can attest that she brings the right set of experiences and skills to lead CSU into the future. Finally, she’s a proud alumna with an unmatched commitment to our success, in all sectors of our mission – she really loves this place.”

Dr. Diana Wall, University Distinguished Professor; Inaugural Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability; Search Advisory Committee Member

“I was tremendously impressed with the quality and objectivity of the search. It was representative of everyone on the campus, and it was really a well-run, equitable search. I was glad that students were so well-represented on the search and was especially impressed with the chair, Armando Valdez; he ran a very respectful committee. And the candidates were truly high quality. Of our top pool, Amy was one of the best prepared and most all-around visionary. She really has an excellent handle on the practical aspects of what is needed to represent CSU. A big part of her job is going to be to communicate how great our research and teaching are to the Board of Governors and the public, and she did that beautifully. She came across as strong, knowledgeable, thoughtful, and supportive of academia. It is obvious from her record that she gets results, and that came through in her interview.”

Dr. Sonia Kreidenweis, Interim Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs and Dean of the Graduate School; University Distinguished Professor; Search Advisory Committee Member

“I was really pleased with the way the search was conducted. There was lots of opportunity for campus to provide input through the listening sessions, and we added more sessions when people asked for them. The sessions gave us a good cross-section of what the university is thinking, both their concerns and what they’re excited about, and this input was shared with the candidates so they could speak to it during their interviews. Armando Valdez did a great job as search chair; he made sure everyone had a voice and didn’t try to squelch anyone’s opinions. It also was good that several members of the Board of Governors were on the committee so they could hear our thoughts and concerns and carry that forward into the decision-making process. I didn’t know the candidate, but she came in with a lot of understanding about CSU, including knowledge of its research infrastructure, the important role of graduate students, and how critical research and scholarship are to our reputation. For faculty, there’s anxiety over whether whoever comes in will understand all aspects of our mission, and she’s not coming in cold. We need someone who will listen to the campus and help us chart that next level of excellence, including research excellence, and help us foster a climate that really supports undergraduate and graduate education.”

Dr. Timothy Mottet, President of CSU Pueblo

“Amy Parsons is prepared and ready to lead CSU. On day one, she will work hard in support of an inclusive and modern university culture. Amy is a magnet. Her sense of humor, caring for others, and respect for higher education and the land grant university pulls others to her. And she problem-solves through these relationships. Amy is the right leader for CSU. She will support CSU’s faculty, staff, and students as they turn bold ideas into solutions for the people of Colorado and beyond. I look forward to having her as a presidential partner and will support Amy in any way I can to ensure the continued success of the university community in Fort Collins.”

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