After more than two decades, Leslie Taylor leaves a lasting legacy
story by Nik Olsen
published Dec. 6, 2021
July 27, 1997 was Leslie Taylor’s first day in Fort Collins. That evening, rain was falling as she returned from a Colorado State University Athletics fundraiser at Fox Acres in Red Feather Lakes and by morning, campus had been inundated by floodwaters.
Helping CSU student-athletes navigate the flood recovery was just the beginning of Taylor’s impact. During her 24 years on campus, she worked as an academic counselor in athletics, in the Office of Admissions, in web communications, and as assistant vice president for enrollment communications. She also is a member of the President’s Native American Advisory Council and a strong supporter of the Native American Cultural Center in the Division of Student Affairs.
Taylor has served as Vice President for Enrollment and Access since 2017, starting as interim. At the end of 2021, she will say goodbye to that role and her work on campus. But because of the connections she’s built and the friendships she’s made, she always will remain a valued member of the CSU community.
“Where else do you walk around where you work and see literal world-changing agents next to students finding their way?” Taylor asked as she sat in her Johnson Hall office overlooking CSU’s historic Oval.
After arriving with the 1997 flood, Taylor is ending her work at CSU amid the global COVID pandemic.
“My career here has been bookended by two of the most significant challenges in our campus history,” Taylor said. “These have been big challenges, but CSU came out stronger after the 1997 flood, and I believe we will be stronger after this pandemic.”
Focusing on students
Taylor’s role on campus evolved with the institution, but her heart was always with students. She worked tirelessly to recruit and support new students, developing a deep commitment to fostering student success. Her favorite days on campus were the move-in days, followed by commencement ceremonies – and of course, the days the residence halls empty out, a symbolic hallmark of another successful academic year completed.
Celebrating Leslie Taylor
Join the celebration to say farewell to Leslie Taylor, Vice President for Enrollment and Access, and former University Registrar Chris Seng at their retirement celebration from 3-5:30 p.m., Dec. 8, at the New Belgium Porch at Canvas Stadium. Remarks at 3:45 p.m.
“Leslie is one-of-a-kind and has a deep knowledge of what guides students to choose a place to continue their education,” said President Joyce McConnell. “She’s helped CSU grow its student population while other institutions struggled to do so.”
“During the time we’ve worked together,” said McConnell, “I’ve seen how Leslie’s warm personality, sense of humor and deep empathy for others really amplified her impact. We are so grateful for the more than two decades of service she’s given to CSU.”
Those who have worked with and learned from Taylor know she has understood the importance of the “Big A’s” of higher ed: Admissions, Academics, Alumni, Athletics, and Advancement. Alongside her passion for admissions work, she is a deft communicator, whose skills in web communications helped shepherd CSU from a time when the internet and sending emails were more novelty than necessity. She helped CSU recalibrate its homepage into an engaging and active communications platform, while others still treated the web as nothing more than a passive repository for information.
“Leslie is one-of-a-kind and has a deep knowledge of what guides students to choose a place to continue their education. She’s helped CSU grow its student population while other institutions struggled to do so.”
— President Joyce McConnell
After her success in CSU’s web communications, Taylor returned to the enrollment world, where she worked closely with Melissa Trifiletti before Trifiletti was named vice president. Trifiletti passed away in 2018 after a battle with cancer, and Taylor was asked to lead the Division of Enrollment and Access.
Like her professional involvement at CSU, Taylor’s role as a member of the larger CSU community also evolved over the years. As an Indigenous woman on campus, she says she grew into a strong advocate for tribal affairs and the Indigenous community at CSU. She had just moved into her role as vice president when two Native American students on a campus tour were taken aside by CSU police officers after someone on the tour had reported them as “suspicious.” Taylor helped implement changes to prevent future misunderstandings and assure that everyone who visited would be treated with respect and feel welcome on campus.
Taylor values her connections with faculty members like Roe Bubar, Irene Vernon and Mary Ontiveros, as well as other members of the CSU Multicultural Staff and Faculty Network and Womxn of Color Network. “I realized there was responsibility in being who I was,” she said. “The last eight years, that network of people on campus has meant the world to me, and I will miss it so much,” she said.
Bubar noted that CSU is saying goodbye to its highest-ranking Native American woman. She says Taylor is a person who has an innate sense of power dynamics in meetings and groups and is known for her advocacy on behalf of those who have been marginalized. Taylor also has served as a mentor for younger Native professionals at CSU, not only helping create a sense of community, but greatly impacting recruitment and retention.
Taylor also is known for her strong dedication to assuring the success of all students admitted to CSU.
“She takes her role very seriously,” Bubar said of Taylor. “She is committed to their success. It’s not just a job to her.”
Taylor served under four presidents and had the opportunity to work alongside great minds like Temple Grandin, Diana Wall, Graeme Stephens and Bernie Rollin. She was here to listen to speeches from leaders like Susan Rice, Jane Goodall and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Kathy Phifer, who worked alongside Taylor in Aylesworth Hall for years, heralded Taylor’s impact on CSU.
“If Aylesworth walls could talk … oh, what stories they could tell,” Phifer said. “Meeting Leslie at CSU and having the opportunity to work with her will always be one of the highlights of my life.”
“She has made me a better person in so many ways, while also making CSU a better place with her passion for education and commitment to diversity and equity,” Phifer said. “From her early start in Admissions, to helping to launch CSU’s web-world, to solid communication guidance in External Relations, and full circle back to Enrollment and Access, she always has been the best leader, colleague, mentor and friend. Her impact is evergreen and her legacy will remain strong. We are all better humans because Leslie has been at a CSU Ram – green and gold, through and through.”
While she leaves with many memories, Taylor says there are experiences that stand out that she will certainly miss, experiences like walking through the Lory Student Center to remind herself of the reasons why we are all here.
“And I’ll really miss the Oval, our ‘Cathedral of Trees’,” she said with a smile, promising to remain a part of the CSU community. “I plan to take advantage of all the retirement benefits!”