Published: March 4, 2024 By

Dr. Janine DavidsonJanine Davidson (ArchEngr’88) is president of Metropolitan State University of Denver. Prior, Davidson was appointed by former President Barack Obama as the 32nd undersecretary of the U.S. Navy. Davidson also served as an Air Force officer and was the first woman to fly the C-130 aircraft. During the 2023 Homecoming Weekend, CU Boulder awarded her the George Norlin Award for her contributions in her career and community.

How have the lessons you’ve learned prepared you to lead a university? 

At CU, I was an engineering student, Air Force ROTC cadet and a member of Greek life, which exposed me to unique people groups and leadership styles. Leading MSU Denver during the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself tapping into my military flight training, where I learned how to stay calm in an emergency and take decisive action. I find leading a university is not unlike being a leader in the Pentagon, which built my patience for working within a large bureaucracy and an appreciation for the importance of structure and process for inclusive decision-making. 

Are there any CU leadership moments that have inspired your decision-making at MSU Denver? 

When [past CU president] Gordon Gee came to CU Boulder and decided to live in the dorms, it reinforced his focus on students. I’ve said my three priorities at MSU Denver are “students, students and students,” and President Gee showed me  the power of always keeping students in mind.

How do you push students to become trailblazers? 

More than half of MSU Denver’s fall 2023 class are first-generation college graduates. They already know it takes grit and perseverance to be a trailblazer. We encourage students to study what they love by giving them resources and connections. If you are passionate about something, you’re more likely to be good at it. And if you’re good at something, there will be room at the top! 

What MSU Denver initiatives have you been the most proud of? 

The Classroom to Career Hub ensures students leave college prepared for successful careers and has doubled the number of employers actively recruiting our students. We also implemented our Interdisciplinary Health Institute, which will prepare our students for a variety of healthcare careers while growing and diversifying Colorado’s struggling healthcare workforce. 

What are your goals for the future of higher education throughout Colorado? 

My biggest long-term goal is truly closing the equity gap for students. Many students are choosing to go to college out of state for financial purposes. We need to get more students ready for the future job market while keeping Coloradans in Colorado. 

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Photo courtesy Janine Davidson