Janine Davidson’s tenure as MSU Denver’s President starts on July 24. After leaving the White House in January and surveying her options for the future, Davidson decided on MSU Denver because of her past in Colorado and the buzz she was hearing about the University.
“Just the passion and the energy that just extemporaneously rolled off their tongues was really captivating,” Davidson said about MSU Denver students after her first visit to the campus. “I remember texting my military assistant back in D.C. saying there is something really cool going on out here.”
Davidson plans to lay out her full vision for the school in September.
“Davidson is all about students,” said Joshua Gardner, President of the Student Government Association.
According to MSU Denver Provost Vicki Golich, Davidson’s dedication to students was evident from the moment she arrived in Denver for her interview. Unlike other candidates, Davidson arrived several days early determined to talk with as many students as possible. She “put on a baseball cap, went down to the Tivoli basement, and just sat there and talked to random students,” Golich said.
Davidson received her Bachelor of Science degree in architectural engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder as well as a Master’s degree. She has a doctorate in international relations from the University of South Carolina. She brings with her a breadth of unique experiences: as a pilot in the United States Air Force, as a professor at George Mason University and served in the Pentagon. Most recently, she served as Undersecretary of the Navy from 2016-2017.
Davidson’s work at the Department of Defense taught her the importance of constant dialogue when running complex organizations such as a university.
“If you have a really inclusive process with everyone working on the problem together, it is so much more likely to succeed,” Davidson said.
She believes that regular communication with students, faculty and staff will allow her to be successful in her new role.
Ultimately, Davidson seeks to increase MSU Denver’s visibility both regionally and nationally. Davidson and other faculty and staff hope to see MSU Denver serve as a model for student success to other universities across the country. MSU Denver has the opportunity to be innovative and creative.
“Nobody else is doing it the way MSU is doing it,” Davidson said.
MSU Denver has long been a progressive and innovative institution thanks in large part to Stephen Jordan’s tenure as president, said Davidson. She is determined to build on all of Jordan’s accomplishments and thrust MSU Denver further into the national spotlight.
“We have been recognized better locally over the last 12 years, but now becoming more recognizable both regionally and nationally is the focus,” said Cathy Lucas, associate to the president for Marketing and Communications. Davidson’s reputation, as well as her contacts in Washington D.C. should help bolster MSU Denver’s reputation and visibility, according to Golich.
Higher education in Colorado is severely underfunded according to George Middlemist, associate vice president of Administration and Finance. MSU Denver is also the lowest state funded university in Colorado. The lack of state funding is an issue that Davidson will address.
“One of her big focuses is going to be not only fundraising itself, but how we are able to operate and survive with diminishing state funds,” said Michelle Lucero, the chair of the MSU Denver Board of Trustees.
Faculty senate president Matthew Makley said that Davidson must prioritize state-level conversations and remind those at the state and federal level of the value of an MSU Denver education. Many MSU Denver students stay in the Denver area after they graduate, so more funding for student success will inevitably lead to a more successful city. Faculty, staff and students at MSU Denver see a bright future ahead under Davidson’s leadership.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Davidson said, “but I am anxious to get started.”