Dear USF community,
In February, we began a national search to find a vibrant and visionary regional chancellor who could propel our USF St. Petersburg campus to even greater heights and help advance the entire university. After conducting interviews, town halls and stakeholder meetings and reviewing feedback from the USF community, one candidate emerged as the right choice for this vital position: Christian Hardigree, who currently serves as dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver. She will start July 1, 2022.
Chancellor Hardigree brings a demonstrated history of academic and administrative experience, as well as an excellent record of serving the communities where she has worked. She has cultivated meaningful relationships with business leaders, donors and alumni to benefit her university, and is passionate in her promotion of student-centered success. Chancellor Hardigree has also been deeply committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts throughout her career. I am confident she will be an outstanding advocate for the USF St. Petersburg campus as well as a trusted partner to me, and other leaders across the university, as we work together to continue USF’s tremendous momentum.
Chancellor Hardigree’s story is inspiring and may sound familiar to others within the USF Bulls family. The daughter of a first-generation college student and veteran, she worked two and sometimes three jobs while she was an undergraduate. She credits Pell Grants and a variety of scholarships from generous benefactors with giving her the resources to earn her degree. The student journey is very personal to her and serves as a motivating factor in her work to eliminate systemic inequities or disparities for others.
She joined MSU Denver as a tenured faculty member and founding dean of the School of Hospitality in January 2019. Dean Hardigree led the transition to a free-standing school and implemented departmental structures, a school strategic plan and initiatives, and other deliverables. She secured more than $3.7 million in external funds to support the school and led faculty through curriculum redesign of six degrees and majors, eight minors and nine certificates.
Chancellor Hardigree developed and oversaw a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at MSU and increased the Black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) student population by 8.3 percent. She designed, launched and funded an initiative to transition 80 percent of courses to utilize open education resources (OER), making learning materials more accessible and helping to level the playing field for historically underrepresented students. In addition, 16 of the 17 hires she made identified as immigrant, female, international, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and/or intersectional applicants.
While at MSU, Chancellor Hardigree enhanced a broad range of industry and community partnerships, including joining the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Board of Directors; Colorado Tourism Office, Inclusivity in Travel Advisory Group; VISIT DENVER Board of Directors; Sage Hospitality’s Inclusion, Equity & Awareness (IDEA) group; Stonebridge Companies; and Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association Workforce Development Council.
Prior to her role at MSU, Chancellor Hardigree served as the founding director and tenured professor at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. She oversaw more than 260 majors with a total enrollment of more than 1,500 students. She also worked for Parnell & Associates as a senior litigation attorney and partner focusing on employment discrimination, arbitration, mediation and labor-management relations. In 2012, she was selected as a faculty institute senior teaching fellow at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), where she also received the Sam and Mary Boyd Distinguished Professor for Service Award in 2011 and the Boyd Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award in 2010.
Chancellor Hardigree earned a bachelor of science, cum laude, from William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV. She went on to receive her juris doctorate from Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.
I would like to thank our broadly representative search committee, led by chair Thomas W. Smith, associate dean of the Judy Genshaft Honors College at the USF St. Petersburg campus, and vice chair Alison Barlow, executive director of the city of St. Petersburg’s Innovation District. Committee members were very thoughtful and diligent in their selection process and devoted a lot of time during a traditionally hectic period of the academic year. I would also like to thank our executive search firm, SP&A Executive Search, for its support and guidance throughout this process.
Special thanks to all the members of the USF community who participated in listening sessions, submitted questions for the candidates and offered honest and meaningful input. Your engagement is much appreciated and played an important role in bringing this search to a successful finish.
Finally, my sincere gratitude to Dr. Martin Tadlock, who served as regional chancellor since 2018. He provided steady and unflappable leadership during his tenure and always put the needs of students first. We will miss his contributions as regional chancellor but are happy he will continue to remain a part of our university as a faculty member in the College of Education.
I am thrilled to welcome Chancellor Hardigree to the University of South Florida and I look forward to collaborating with her and the other members of the USF leadership team on the next chapter of our success.
Rhea F. Law