MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D.

Janine Davidson, Ph.D., has served as president of Metropolitan State University of Denver since 2017. She is a national thought leader in higher education and on topics such as public service, U.S. foreign policy and national security.

As president of Colorado’s third-largest public university, Davidson is a fierce advocate for MSU Denver’s 17,000 students. From her first days on campus, she has championed the role public universities play in “holding the line on the American dream.” She has staunchly advocated for legal status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and supported MSU Denver’s undocumented students, underrepresented students, and military and veteran students.

Davidson has spearheaded the development of high-quality, career-oriented undergraduate and graduate academic programs that serve Colorado’s communities and power its economy. She launched the University’s Classroom to Career Hub, connecting students with employers for a direct pipeline into the state and national workforce. She has also overseen the creation of the MSU Denver Health Institute – a collaboration of 10 academic departments in health-related fields that addresses state health-care-industry shortages – and the Institute for Public Service, which is focused on inspiring, preparing, and enabling students to serve with an emphasis on careers in government and the nonprofit sector.

Prior to her time at MSU Denver, Davidson served as the 32nd undersecretary of the U.S. Navy. Her appointment by then-President Barack Obama as Navy “under” followed nearly 30 years of academic, civilian and military service.

She has taught at George Mason University, Georgetown University, Davidson College and various professional military schools, and was an aviation and aerobatics flight instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. She recently returned to the classroom at MSU Denver, co-teaching a course on the philosophical and legal origins of freedom of speech in the United States.

Davidson began her career as an Air Force officer and cargo pilot. She was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Squadron Officer School and was the first woman to fly the Air Force’s tactical C-130.

Her various honors include: HillVets Top 100 Most Influential Veterans; University of South Carolina Distinguished Alumna; Secretary of the Navy Medal for Distinguished Public Service; Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service; Girl Scouts of Colorado 2018 Woman of Distinction; the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce 2019 Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business; a 2021 Denver Business Journal Most Admired CEO; a 2021 WorldDenver International Women’s Day honoree; and a 2022 9NEWS Leader of the Year finalist.

At the national level, Davidson chairs the Department of Defense Policy Board and serves on the State Department Foreign Affairs Policy Board, as a National Association of Public Administrators fellow, and as a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She previously served as a presidentially appointed commissioner for the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service and for the Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. Locally, she is a director of UMB Financial Corporation and serves on the boards of the Colorado Concern, Downtown Denver Partnership, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation and the Rose Community Foundation.

President's Vision

In September 2017, President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., laid out her vision for MSU Denver: to become the model urban university for opportunity, diversity, excellence and transformation.

Davidson identified five focus areas through which the University could achieve that goal:



1. Strengthen student success

Students studying outdoorsStudents are the top priority and MSU Denver will ensure they receive the support they need to graduate, get good jobs and move up the economic ladder. To do so, the University will redesign its student services structure to apply best practices and creative programs to enhance recruitment, retention, graduation and career services.

The University will work to change the national narrative around student success, epitomized by rankings skewed in favor of universities that cater to the top 1 percent. MSU Denver will use the stories of its students and stats to redefine traditional metrics for school “quality” so they reflect outcomes like job placement and economic mobility.

MSU Denver will market itself to business leaders, parents and prospective students as offering an education that is both the highest value and smartest choice, emphasizing the remarkable success of its graduates – Fulbright scholars, award-winning novelists, CEOs and many others.



2. Address shrinking resources

With state support at an all-time low, MSU Denver will develop a funding sustainment plan to ensure it is getting the most out of limited resources and keeping the dream of higher education in reach for all students.

The University will build on its record-setting fundraising year and expand its efforts in this area with the creation a strategic fundraising plan. The Advancement and Marketing and Communications departments will work together to develop an integrated fundraising and branding strategy to change the current narrative at the state and federal levels.



3. Invest in people

Faculty and staff are essential to student success and the delivery of the University’s mission. Accordingly, MSU Denver will develop a task force to look at compensation.

Barriers that get in the way of the mission will be identified and knocked down.

The University will become a destination of choice for faculty, staff and students. The community will work to find the sweet spot that includes better employee engagement, recognition and continued empowerment.



4. Deliver on the promise

MSU Denver remains committed to past priorities while also continuing to talk to employers, parents and community leaders about what graduates need to be successful and developing programs and curricula to address those needs.

Projects that can be scalable as the institution considers its future will be given priority.



5. Lead inclusively and with intention

Networking GroupFive “issue-oriented” councils will be created to provide recommendations on top priorities and emerging issues. These faculty- and staff-led councils will focus on strategy; academic excellence and student support; culture and the workplace; infrastructure and fiscal responsibility; and efficiency and process transformation.

Inclusive leadership is not just a tagline. It’s the secret sauce for innovation and problem-solving in a large, talented and diverse organization.

Davidson will continue to engage with both external and internal audiences. Besides her weekly video series, she plans to have monthly fireside chats with employees and pizza parties with students.


President's Initiatives

Classroom to Career Hub

The Classroom to Career Hub, the latest innovative venture from Metropolitan State University of Denver, connects students and employers, facilitating real-world learning experiences and upskilling homegrown talent for Colorado’s workforce pipeline.?

More than a traditional career center, the C2 Hub innovatively strengthens students’ academic and professional acumen through strategic and robust partnerships with local industries and communities to ensure an equitable and prosperous future for all Coloradans.

Classroom to Career Hub



Health Institute

The health institute is a collaboration of ten MSU Denver departments that serve students entering health-related fields. This collaboration will advance health equity in the state of Colorado through diversifying the health workforce and cultivating a whole-person approach to wellness. Revolutionizing health in Colorado by breaking barriers, empowering communities, fostering collaboration and embracing diversity.

Health Institute



Campus Safety

President Davidson is committed to ensuring the safety of the MSU Denver community. She believes that safety in classrooms, offices and public spaces is essential to the health of our learning community.

That said, increasing gun violence is a reality. To be prepared, Davidson asks all community members to:

  • Review current Auraria Campus emergency procedures.
  • Put the Auraria Police Department phone numbers on their cell-phone favorites list: Emergency, 303-556-5000; Tip line for text messages, 720-593-TIPS (8477).
  • Contact the CARE Team if you notice a student in distress.

Watch Davidson address campus safety at the March 13 Spring Update:



Inclusive Leadership

President Davidson believes that great leadership needs to be inclusive, and that bringing a diversity of voices to any discussion will ensure a better solution. From day one, she has called on University leaders to empower their teams by delegating decision-making power.

To implement her vision, Davidson has:

  • Created Universitywide Advisory Councils to examine issues of critical importance to MSU Denver’s mission.
  • Held Inclusive Leadership Summit for 50 University leaders to provide clarity around the topic and tools to help foster inclusivity on their teams. See artistic renderings of the notes from that summit on the Inclusive Leadership website.
  • Included an Idea Catcher on her website to allow people to submit their most creative thoughts and suggestions.

Watch Davidson talk about inclusive leadership at the March 13 Spring Update:

MSU Denver 2030 Strategic Plan

Over the course of the next ten years, Metropolitan State University of Denver plans to promote awareness of its educational advantages while providing affordable and transformative education for all.

View Strategic Plan 2030