CSU names Amy Parsons as sole finalist for university president

Courtesy of Colorado State University
Amy Parsons, who was confirmed as the sole finalist to be the 16th president of Colorado State University.

Updated 3:18 p.m.

The Colorado State University Board of Governors voted unanimously to confirm Amy Parsons as the sole finalist to be the 16th president of CSU.

The vote took place after a 1 p.m. closed-door executive meeting at the CSU Spur campus in Denver. The board has two weeks to finalize her nomination to be president.

“It's a big day for Colorado State University Fort Collins,” said board chair Kim Jordan. “The search committee did an excellent job, allowing the board to identify a finalist who is uniquely and exceptionally qualified.”

Amy Parsons' background

Parsons, who left CSU in 2020, previously served for 16 years at CSU as an executive vice-chancellor, deputy general counsel and vice president for university operations at CSU’s Fort Collins campus. A biography said she helped lead some of the system’s most high-profile projects over the last 16 years.

“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,” said Jordan. “She’s also demonstrated that she doesn’t shy away from even the most daunting challenges.”

Parsons was recommended to the board by a 31-member committee representing community members, students, staff and faculty, and donors. Parsons was the sole finalist named to replace interim president Rick Miranda, who is a former provost and executive vice president.

She is currently CEO of Mozzafiato, LLC, an online international retail platform specializing in Italian beauty brands.

Parsons managed planning and construction of stadiums and campuses in Colorado and Mexico and oversaw development of the new CSU Spur campus at the National Western Center in Denver. Before CSU, she practiced law specializing in commercial litigation.

University officials said as vice president Parsons 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 construction and renovation of classrooms and other campus infrastructure.

How was the search conducted?

The search committee conducted an open national search, recruiting “a deep and diverse” pool of candidates. It hosted nine public listening sessions, which indicated campus employees wanted a new president who is committed to solving workload, retention, and morale issues, who is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and who is focused on students. They also wanted someone who is a collaborator and strategic thinker.

Participants ranked low salaries, particularly among classified and faculty who are not on a tenure track, as the top challenge for a new president, followed by the high cost of attending CSU. Nontenure-track faculty with low salaries have been pushing for higher wages.

The search committee selected three candidates, which the university is keeping confidential, that it believed could do the job. The Board of Governors interviewed the three and “after rigorous debate and reconsideration of input from numerous sources” selected Parsons as the sole finalist. Board members said they were impressed by Parsons’ business background in leading strategic initiatives and partnerships with industries across Colorado.

“All of this pushed her to the top of a very talented pool,” said Jordan.

Several members of the search committee noted that Parsons was the best prepared and one stated she was the “most all-around visionary.”

“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,” said Dr. Lise Youngblade, dean of health and human services and a search committee member. “She doesn’t come from a traditional academic background, but I am excited by the skills she brings.”  

As chief executive officer, Parsons will manage and oversee CSU in Fort Collins, the flagship campus of the Colorado State University system. It has a student body of more than 32,000 students, employs 7,500 people, and is a research university that draws $450 million in research each year. It is home to more than 1,700 full-time faculty who work in eight colleges.

Parsons said in a statement that leading the CSU Fort Collins campus is the only job that could entice her to leave her current role. She attended CSU and is the parent of a current student.

“At its core, CSU is about access, excellence, and inclusion — and the dreams that education can make possible,” she said. “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.”

The last president, Joyce McConnell, assumed the job in July 2019 but left the university in June this year, in a separation the university described as “parting ways” with the system’s Board of Governors. CSU paid $1.5 million to buy out her contract. McConnell, who was the university’s first female president, succeeded Tony Frank, who after 11 years as president, became chancellor of the CSU System.

Should Parsons be selected as CSU’s new president, the terms of her contract will be made public.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misspelled Amy Parsons' name.