President Joyce McConnell has taken a major step forward in Colorado State University’s Courageous Strategic Transformation process with the announcement of a new Vice President for Strategy.
Jenelle Beavers is a distinguished higher ed leader with both legal expertise and a background in academic administration who will join the Office of the President’s team in March. McConnell describes her as the perfect fit for this important new role.
“The position of chief strategy officer for the institution is one that we’re seeing at more and more universities, especially at large, complex institutions like CSU,” McConnell said. “Jenelle is incredibly talented, and uniquely qualified to help us really take our strategic transformation from the imagined to the real. She brings an external perspective, but also a commitment to the land-grant mission and to the future of higher ed. I am excited for the university community to get to work with her and to experience her remarkable talent.”
Beavers is currently a member of the Office of the General Counsel at the University of Missouri System, where she advises a four-campus university system that supports approximately 70,000 students and 20,000 employees, a Level 1 trauma center hospital, and an Extension program with activities in every county of the state. Prior to joining the OGC, Beavers served as the associate director of the Honors College and Missouri Scholars Academy.
Before joining the University of Missouri System, she worked for 11 years as a lawyer and litigator, including eight years with the U.S. Department of Justice where she received a Special Commendation for Outstanding Service from the assistant attorney general. An honors graduate of the University of Missouri with a B.A. in English, Beavers earned both a master’s degree in public health and a J.D. from the University of Michigan.
In her new role at CSU, Beavers will report directly to McConnell and work closely with the executive leadership team and faculty, staff and students to help CSU realize the shared courageous, strategic transformation that McConnell envisions.
“I am excited to continue my career in public service at Colorado State and join this vibrant community,” Beavers said. “This university has a wealth of talent and I can’t wait to work together to forge new paths that will benefit faculty, staff, students, Fort Collins and the state of Colorado.”
Critical next step
McConnell sees the new role that Beavers is taking on as a critical next step to help CSU realize a bold vision and a transformation that is both courageous and strategic.
When McConnell announced her vision for Courageous Strategic Transformation in Fall 2019, she knew she was challenging the university community to do more than develop predictable plans for the future. But no one could have predicted the courage and strategic capacity that the CSU community would be called upon to demonstrate in subsequent months, beginning in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced universities around the country to shift to virtual operations.
“We had no intention of putting our Courageous Strategic Transformation on hold in 2020,” McConnell said, “but the pandemic truly demanded all of our energy and expertise, and I’m very proud of how we responded. Unlike many institutions, we made it through a fall semester successfully on the schedule we laid out and without any recorded cases of classroom transmission. I’m also proud that this past fall, even as our entire community was grappling with the challenges of the pandemic, we refocused on our transformation process and looked ahead.”
Bold and collaborative
McConnell has always envisioned the Courageous Strategic Transformation process at CSU as both bold and collaborative, and her experience leading the university during COVID has only strengthened that sense.
“The way that this community pulled together to respond to the pandemic, and the creativity and ingenuity that our faculty, staff and students displayed – these things just reaffirmed for me what an amazing place CSU is,” McConnell said. “I know that what we map out for our future together will be even stronger coming out of the pandemic.”
This past fall, McConnell’s office engaged Chris Hutchinson of Fort Collins-based consulting company Trebuchet Group to lead intensive visioning conversations with the Executive Leadership Team and college deans. Trebuchet has worked with units across the university on strategic planning, team building, and leadership development for more than seven years with tremendous success.
The initial leadership sessions were held biweekly in the fall and will continue this spring; they have also been shaped by talented CSU leaders: Martin Carcasson of the Center for Public Deliberation; Marsha Benedetti, director of Talent Development; Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Sue James; and Laura Jensen, Vice Provost for Planning and Effectiveness.
As Vice President for Strategy, Beavers will work closely with this existing support team, as well as with leadership across the university, to set a new and exciting strategic course for CSU. Later this semester, faculty, staff and students from across the university will be invited to participate in the process, building on the early work that has been done.