Christian Hardigree, current dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver, was selected Wednesday as the next St. Pete regional chancellor.
After a three month long search, President Rhea Law announced her decision in a Wednesday universitywide email detailing Hardigree’s success. Hardigree is set to step into her new position July 1.
She was one of three finalists chosen by the search committee. Hardigree was also named a finalist in Lamar University’s search for a new provost and vice president of academic affairs.
In January 2019, Hardigree became the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at MSU. She led it to become a free-standing school by creating a structure with departments and a strategic plan of initiatives.
Over $3.7 million in external funds were given to the school during her tenure in support of its growth. She also led the redesign of curriculum for six degrees and majors, eight minors and nine certificates.
Before joining the MSU faculty, Hardigree was the founding director of the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. She also worked as a senior litigation attorney and partner for Parnell and Associates.
Hardigree credits her interest in USF St. Pete to the tight-knit community the area has and the resources the university offers for student success programs. Besides feeling overjoyed about her appointment, she said she is thrilled to contribute to USF’s current trajectory in providing meaningful opportunities for students.
“The momentum of USF and OneUSF, and the direction we’re going, is just dynamic and exciting and something that I really wanted to be a part of,” Hardigree said.
“All the resources of the USF Tampa campus [and] being able to tap into other units that can provide additional support that can enhance and elevate what we’re doing [for students’ success] is one of the things I’m excited about.”
During the university’s recent presidential search, a prevailing concern from members of the community was whether Law’s absence of academic background would handicap her ability to lead a university. However, appointing academically versed constituents, such as Hardigree, will fine-tune an administration ready to advance the school, according to Law.
“If we can bring together all of our strengths, we are going to be so much stronger because we have many different points of view,” she said. “We’re able to think of the most innovative and direct way to accomplish the goals that we’ve set for ourselves here at the university, so that is one of the reasons that it was very important to me that [Hardigree] had an academic background.”
Law credited Hardigree’s academic and administrative experience, as well as community work, to why she will be a good fit for USF. She also said Hardigree is “passionate in her promotion of student-centered success,” which she has supported through creating relationships with business leaders, donors and alumni.
At MSU, some of the partnerships Hardigree created included joining the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Board of Directors, VISIT DENVER Board of Directors as well as the Sage Hospitality’s Inclusion, Equity and Awareness group.
Hardigree has also “been deeply committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts throughout her career,” according to Law.
She was credited with increasing the Black, Indigenous and people of color student population at MSU by 8.3%, according to Law. To make class materials more accessible, she initiated a transition to make 80% of courses utilize open education resources, which means the course material is published in the public domain under open licenses.
Members of the USF St. Pete community can expect Hardigree to “sponge” all of the dynamics between faculty, staff, students and members of Pinellas County in an attempt to acclimate herself to her new position.
“It’s really a matter of learning and absorbing as much as humanly possible in order to really appreciate the journey that’s taken us to this place,” she said. “I like to under promise and over deliver and so I’m looking forward to those opportunities to do that.”
This story was updated.