FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– Joyce McConnell likes to say she’s trading the Appalachians for the Rockies. And she’s thrilled by the opportunity. McConnell comes to Colorado State University from West Virginia University, where she’s been serving as provost and vice-president for academic affairs.

Joyce McConnell (credit: CBS)

McConnell fielded all kinds of question from the search committee looking to replace long-time, and highly regarded CSU president Dr. Tony Frank. And McConnell had a lot of questions for the committee members.

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“I wanted to know if they take CSU’s land grant mission seriously. The land grant college system was founded by President Lincoln to make sure higher education wasn’t just open to the privileged class. I want to be at an institution that’s elite, but not elitist. I’m a roll-up-your sleeves and get to work type of leader. I’m pragmatic and want to get things done. CSU is a perfect fit.”

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McConnell is just the 15th president in the nearly 150 year history of Colorado State. She’s also it’s first female president. To her, that’s not a big deal. But she appreciates the fact it is significant.

Joyce McConnell (credit: CBS)

“It sends the message to people, not just here but all over, that CSU is thinking forward and seeks out everyone who can lead. To that extent, it speaks loudly.” McConnell says CSU must continue seeking out great students, no matter what their backgrounds.

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In true land grant fashion, she wants the doors to a CSU degree wide open to all who can make the grade.

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She told CBS4’s Jim Benemann, “Where are all those students who might not otherwise go to school? Who are so smart with so much potential who might not otherwise be at CSU? We want them.”

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Benemann asked her about last year’s highly-publicized incident when two Native-American high schoolers were singled out for questioning by campus police during a school tour. Creating a more inclusive campus was one of her top priorities at WVU, and she plans to build on CSU’s renewed efforts to make sure all feel welcome.

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“What does it mean to include someone who is different? There are many ways to do that. But we always have to make sure we have out eye on the ball because the included student is the engaged student is the successful student.”

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McConnell takes over as CSU president on July 1. That’s when Tony Frank focuses solely on his role as chancellor of the CSU system.

Jim Benemann

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