CEO, longtime CSU leader tapped as finalist for president of CSU Fort Collins
Colorado State University
|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 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. 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.”