By Daniel J Vaccaro
Investiture is the act of bestowing a rank or honor.
For Janine Davidson, Ph.D., who was invested as president of Metropolitan State University of Denver on Sept. 7, the word evokes a broader meaning – investing in the future of students.
“As leaders in higher ed, (we) should wake up every day thinking about how we can adapt our structures, processes, curricula, even our mindsets, to better serve our students,” she said in her keynote address. “And (we need) to do so within the context and around the constraints of their complex lives. Not the other way around.”
Davidson, the first woman president since MSU Denver gained university status in 2012, delivered her remarks in the King Center Concert Hall on the Auraria Campus. Among many topics, she highlighted the investment that the University is making in Colorado’s workforce through the recently launched Classroom to Career Hub.
“The C2 Hub will provide students with experiential learning opportunities such as paid internships, apprenticeships and co-ops tailored to the overlapping needs of students and employers,” she said. “We’ll work with industry leaders to ensure that our programs are relevant to the world our graduates will face.”
The Investiture ceremony capped a weeklong series of events and was the first Inauguration in the University’s 53-year history. It came more than a year after Davidson’s July 2017 start date – a nontraditional, if not unprecedented, move in academic communities.
Trustee Michelle Lucero, who chaired the Board of Trustees during Davidson’s hiring process, recalled how she knew Davidson would make a great president in the initial interview.
“Her work at the Pentagon as undersecretary of the Navy, plus her experience in academia, offered the perfect balance of skills,” Lucero said. “Plus, she’d appeared as an expert on national media and flown planes in the Air Force, so we knew she could handle anything we threw at her.”
Current Board Chair Jack Pogge highlighted some of the noteworthy endeavors in Davidson’s initial year, which included hosting former Mexican President Vicente Fox on campus, participating in the Colorado Higher Education forum and addressing Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee.
Among other notable speakers were Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, University of Denver President Rebecca Chopp, Ph.D., and Gen. Darren W. McDew, who served with Davidson in the Air Force.
Hancock read portions of a proclamation that named Sept. 7, 2018, as President Janine Davidson Day in Denver.
“She is the right fit for this university, for our city, at this time,” Hancock said. “And so, I wanted to send a very strong, very clear message to the Board of Trustees: You got it right.”
The ceremony also featured remarks from former MSU Denver President Stephen M. Jordan, who presented Davidson with the traditional Presidential Medallion.
Jordan likened the moment to passing on a precious family heirloom, recipe or story. He said the medallion was a link to the past and a road map for the future.
“(Serving as president) is a great responsibility,” he said, “one that will call upon you to give more than you imagined of your time, energy and intellect. But I can say from experience that it is worth every ounce of effort. And I know you, Dr. Davidson, are up to the task.”
For Davidson, that task is clear – to uphold MSU Denver as the model urban university for opportunity, diversity, excellence and transformation.
She stressed the urgency of that task, calling MSU Denver a “vehicle of social mobility” and promising to continue offering opportunities for all students regardless of economic status or background. She asked the audience to join her in that work.
“Great universities are built by a community that supports them, stands by them and inspires them to be even better,” she said. “Communities must engage and invest in this kind of institution, the kind that does what American universities were meant to do – support the American dream.”
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