Months of searching concluded Feb. 14 when the MSU Denver Board of Trustees moved to formally appoint Janine Davidson as the successor to President Stephen Jordan.
The appointment was preceded by a two-day visit to campus during which Davidson met with faculty, staff, administrators and others. Students had the opportunity to meet Davidson in an open forum held on Feb. 13. During the forum, Davidson reiterated her commitment to making herself accessible to students throughout her tenure.
“To come be university president because you care and love students and then to sequester yourself and not be available to students would be sort of weird,” she said. “My leadership approach is to be open, transparent and available. There’s multiple ways to do that. If you invite me to things, I will come.”
Davidson’s contract begins July 2017 and ends June 30, 2020. Her annual salary will be $300,000. Davidson comes to MSU Denver after serving as undersecretary of the Navy for nearly one year. Prior to that, she taught courses at George Mason University related to national security policy and military-civilian relationships.
The incoming president is no stranger to Colorado either. She received a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder before embarking on a 30-year military career in the Air Force. She was the first woman to fly a tactical C-130.
Davidson also holds a doctorate in international studies from the University of South Carolina.
Davidson said through an email statement that she will draw from her combined military and civilian experience to guide MSU Denver throughout her tenure. At the student forum and a later Board of Trustees gathering, she said she intended to follow through on Jordan’s work.
In the same email statement, she said she was 100 percent committed to keeping MSU Denver on track to becoming an Hispanic Serving Institution. Davidson also said that she would work to strengthen the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at MSU Denver by identifying obstacles and eliminating them for DACA students. She called it the right thing to do.
One of the major challenges that Davidson said the school faces is the Colorado General Assembly.
“In a perfect we’d have a partnership with the taxpayers and the legislature and they would understand the value of higher education and they would actually fund higher education at the levels that they used to fund higher education,” she said. “Don’t think I’m not going to continue to fight for that, because I think that it’s time we turned this in America around.”
One of her goals is to hold fast on MSU Denver’s low tuition.
Davidson praised the work done to increase diversity within the student body but said more work needed to be done to further increase diversity within the faculty and staff.
Students were impressed by the incoming president. Eduardo Rascon III, a student in the Chicano Studies department, said he thought Davidson was great and that he appreciated how she listened to students during the forum. However, he and fellow student Selena Piña took a wait-and-see approach to how the president would eventually shake out.
“It definitely looks good on paper and in theory, but there’s not really concrete things in order for me to be swayed a certain way,” Piña said. “There’s general concepts but no specific ideologies, no specific interests, just ‘whatever you want.’ That’s more work on us as students and members of the community.”
Davidson said during the student forum that to start laying out concrete goals before learning more about the university and settling into the job was a “rookie move.”
She also called on MSU Denver students to work to support each other and work toward success together. Regarding cuts in programs, she said she would make the process open and transparent to ensure people understood why certain programs were cut and others were kept.
Near the end of the Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Barbara Barnes Grogan, thanked the search committee and praised President Jordan. She also reiterated MSU Denver’s mission to diversity, saying that if it wasn’t important to Davidson, “we wouldn’t have picked her.”