University of South Florida President Rhea Law announced today that Christian Hardigree will be the next regional chancellor of the USF St. Petersburg campus. Hardigree, who most recently served as the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver, will start her new role at USF on July 1, 2022.
“We are thrilled to welcome Christian Hardigree, a leader who brings a demonstrated history of academic and administrative experience, as well as an excellent record of serving the communities she has been a part of throughout her career,” Law said. “I am confident she will be an outstanding advocate for the St. Petersburg campus and a trusted partner to me as we work together to continue the University of South Florida’s tremendous momentum.”
Hardigree led the transition for the MSU School of Hospitality to become a free-standing school, implementing departmental structures, a strategic plan and other initiatives. She secured more than $3.7 million in external funds to support the school, which is the largest hospitality program in the region, and led faculty through curriculum redesign of six degrees and majors, eight minors and nine certificates.
Hardigree also developed and oversaw a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that helped to increase the Black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) student population by more than 8 percent. She designed, launched and funded an initiative to transition 80 percent of courses to utilize open education resources, which make learning materials more accessible and help level the playing field for historically underrepresented students.
Prior to her role at MSU, Hardigree served as the founding director and professor of the Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia. While there, she helped to secure a $5 million gift, at the time the largest private gift in KSU history, renaming the institute to the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. She led multiple design teams in the creation of state-of-the-art learning spaces, including a new Academic Learning Center and Hospitality/Culinary Lab building, oversaw 50 faculty and staff and grew the program to approximately 800 full-time students.
Hardigree was a professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) in the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality from 2001-2012, working up to become department chair of Hotel Management. She held several administrative roles at UNLV including the associate dean for strategic initiatives in the College of Hotel Administration, assistant president and chief of staff for the university president and associate athletic director for community engagement and special projects.
“I absolutely fell in love with the faculty, staff, students and community members I met at USF St. Petersburg,” Hardigree said. “It’s clearly a special place, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead such a vibrant campus. I can’t wait to get started and am honored by the confidence that President Law and other members of the USF leadership team are showing in me.”
Hardigree’s selection comes after a national search process that included a significant amount of community engagement. USF faculty, staff, students and community members provided feedback at several points during the search process, including town hall meetings with the final three candidates, who each visited the campus and also interviewed with Law earlier this month.
"Chancellor Hardigree brings a compelling mix of energy, enthusiasm and experience to this vital position," said Melissa Seixas, chair of the USF St. Petersburg Campus Advisory Board and a member of the USF Board of Trustees. "With more than 20 years spent in higher education, she has the knowledge and understanding necessary to take our distinctive campus to even greater heights. I am confident USF St. Petersburg will continue to flourish under Chancellor Hardigree's leadership."
Hardigree earned a bachelor of science, cum laude, from UNLV. She went on to receive her juris doctorate from Walter F. George School of law at Mercer University and worked for Parnell & Associates as a senior litigation attorney and partner focusing on employment discrimination, arbitration, mediation and labor-management relations.
Hardigree will be replacing Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock, who after five years of leading the campus will be returning to a teaching role in the USF College of Education.
More information about USF’s St. Petersburg campus regional chancellor search is available here.