When Joyce McConnell became the 15th president of Colorado State University on July 1, 2019, she noted publicly that her predecessors had left her with big shoes to fill—but that, “Mine are prettier!” McConnell is the first woman president in CSU’s long history. She is proud to lead one of our nation’s best land grant universities and equally proud to embody the progress that CSU has made in embracing and celebrating the diversity of its campus community.
McConnell is particularly excited about the timing of her appointment, since it means she will be able to join in the celebration of CSU’s 150th birthday throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. As she explains it, “Hearing about the wonderful plans for the coming year demonstrated to me that everyone in the CSU community takes our world-class education, research and land grant mission seriously. Celebrating 150 years means looking back at a century and a half of service to the state of Colorado and at a simultaneous, sustained commitment to both access and excellence in education. I am thrilled to join the campus community in exploring how far we’ve come—and deciding together where we want to go next!”
Prior to stepping into the presidency at CSU, McConnell spent more than 20 years at another flagship, R1 land grant institution, West Virginia University. She joined the faculty of the WVU College of Law in 1995 and held progressive leadership positions thereafter. She was appointed dean of the College in 2008 and immediately fundraised for a $36 million renovation and expansion of the College building. She also expanded the College’s interdisciplinary opportunities and implemented state-of-the-art experiential and clinical programs and facilities.
McConnell was named provost of West Virginia University by President Gordon Gee in 2014. In this role, she galvanized innovation and entrepreneurship at WVU with her creation of the university-wide WVU Idea Hub. Committed to the power of interdisciplinary education and research, she fostered the expansion of WVU’s Energy Institute, ADVANCE Center and Center for Excellence in STEM Education. To elevate connections among disciplines critical to analytical thinking, problem-solving and understanding the human condition, she established a Humanities Center. And as an expression of her long-held commitment to diversity and inclusion and its relationship to faculty and student success, she created the university’s LGBTQ+ Center and focused the campus on the success of all students.
During a period of significant transition for West Virginia University, economic crisis in the state of West Virginia, soul-searching across higher education and political and cultural upheaval for our nation, McConnell publicly committed to the principles that guide her leadership. She led WVU to completely rethink their approach to Title IX, with the result that the university is now a national leader in proactive Title IX initiatives on campus. And she consistently spoke to and for the faculty of WVU on such thorny and critical topics as free speech and diversity.
In addition to being passionately committed to the mission and success of land grant institutions, McConnell is an advocate for equity in education and the workplace, as well as an advocate for the preservation and protection of our environment. She is a past President of three sections of the Associations of American Law Schools: the sections on the Dean, on natural resources and energy law, and on women in legal education. She has served on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Committee on Infractions and is a member of the Board of Governors for Antero Resources. From 2016-2019, McConnell also chaired the Board of Trustees for the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, embodying her long-standing commitment to the TNC mission of creating a world where people and nature can thrive.
In 2014, McConnell was named the 2014 Public Servant of the Year by the West Virginia Association for Justice and awarded the Special Places Award by West Virginia Land Trust in 2010. She earned an undergraduate degree from Evergreen State College, a law degree from Antioch School of Law, and a master of laws from Georgetown University Law Center.
Married for 36 years to fellow lawyer Vince Trivelli, her best friend and “partner in adventure,” McConnell savors a variety of adventures in her down time, from visiting daughter Alexandra in New York City to reading, cooking, hiking and listening to music. She finds both inspiration and relaxation in natural beauty and looks forward to—as she puts it—”exploring all of this beautiful mountain state. I consider all of Colorado CSU’s campus and I want to learn it by heart.”