FORT COLLINS — Two months into the job as Colorado State University’s 16th president, Amy Parsons is still full of wonder and excitement.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “I am a CSU alum, and I worked here for 17 years, so a big part of it for me is that it feels like I’m coming home, coming back to my alma mater and the place where I spent a lot of my professional career, so it’s really been amazing to be back and such an honor to be sitting in this seat.”
She came to the presidency from a private-sector job as founding CEO of global e-commerce company Mozzafiato LLC, an American company that represents a collection of Italian beauty brands. But before she took on that post in October 2020, she had served in various senior executive leadership roles at CSU and its system — first as deputy general counsel and associate legal counsel, then vice president for university operations and finally executive vice chancellor of the CSU system.
“Coming into this position I have several open seats in high-level leadership positions, so one of my first jobs right here at the start is to fill those seats with the best people I can and to build a really strong leadership team,” Parsons said. “Right now we have an interim dean serving in the role of provost and executive vice president. That is really the No. 2 position at the university, the person who is responsible for the academic side of the house and is really a partner to me and all we do. We’re about to launch an international search to hire a new provost and executive vice president, and I think we’ll get a very strong pool there. We’re also just about to fill our position for vice president for advancement.
One hire she’s already made is that of Demetri E. “Rico” Munn, who is leaving his post as superintendent of Aurora Public Schools to become her chief of staff beginning June 1. “He served on our Board of Governors and was the chairman of our board for some time,” Parsons said. “Bringing Rico on board as chief of staff is going to bring such an amazing perspective and talent and quality when it comes to access for K-12 students and to higher ed, and navigating state and federal relations when it comes to higher ed. He was a real catch, and we’re excited to bring him on board here.”
Parsons also wants to prioritize investment — both in people and in buildings.
“One thing I know that we need to address is that, over the years of COVID especially, the salaries of our faculty and staff have begun to lag behind,” she said. “Having a world-class excellent university starts with the quality of our faculty, so that’s something that we really need to prioritize and address over the next few years as we’re recruiting and retaining the best faculty and investing in them from a salary and compensation standpoint.”
She cited needs for upgrades at what she described as “probably the best veterinary medicine program in the country, which means it’s obviously one of the best in the world, and they are in need of some new facilities over there, so investing in capital improvements on the south side of campus is top on our list as well.
“We’re also about to undertake a major capital improvement of the Clark Building, which is our largest classroom building on campus. Right now it looks about the same as when I was a student here, so that’s an area that needs some love and a refresh.”
She’d like to build a new residence hall north of Canvas Stadium to meet a growing student population. “Those residence halls pay for themselves with the students who live in them, so it doesn’t necessarily affect our bond rating or capacity,” she said. “We’ll be taking that to our board of governors this year.”
She’s also looking forward to meeting with investors, donors and businesses.
“Working with the business and industry community is extremely important,” Parsons said. “We have tremendous partnerships already with our corporate partners in each one of the colleges, but they’re important for a few reasons. Our students are going to be graduating and going into the workforce so we need our industry partners to be more than just advisers. We need them to be actively involved with our faculty and leadership, advising us on the best curriculum to prepare our students for success. I really want to constantly be expanding our industry partnerships in terms of internships, hiring our students. Nothing beats having hands-on experience in industry to pair up with your academic learning at the university, and I think that’s what most prepares students for success.”