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Mary Pedersen, a distinguished educator and veteran administrator, has been named to serve as the next Provost and Executive Vice President at Colorado State University.
Pedersen, who comes to CSU from Cal Poly where she most recently served as Interim Provost, will assume her duties at CSU on Aug. 1. The Provost is the chief academic officer of CSU works in concert with the president, deans, vice presidents and the campus community to strengthen the university’s reputation as an internationally recognized land-grant institution of higher education.
“Dr. Pedersen’s excellent academic, research and leadership experience make her uniquely positioned to serve as the Provost of Colorado State University,” President Joyce McConnell said. “We are thrilled to welcome her and know her visionary and skilled leadership will move us forward through a challenging time to great success. She fully understands the deep commitments CSU, as Colorado’s land-grant institution, has to access to a quality education for our students, to their success and to the transformative scholarship and research contributed by our excellent faculty across all disciplines.”
McConnell also praised Rick Miranda, who served as CSU’s Provost and Executive Vice President for more than a decade and helped CSU successfully grow student enrollment, expand the physical infrastructure of campus, and reach record-levels of research productivity.
McConnell noted Pedersen’s track record of collaboration to overcome complex challenges that face public research institutions. At Cal Poly, where she served in successive leadership roles within the Provost’s Office since 2011 after serving as a department head and an associate dean, Pedersen led the effort to fulfill university and academic affairs strategic plans, help a revision of general education curriculum, expand student scholars programs and create a more diverse and inclusive campus through updated academic curriculum and programs.
“The integration of teaching and research together is what has drawn me to and kept me engaged with the land-grant mission,” Pedersen said. “You are on the leading edge of discovery, and it is very exciting to be part of that. I am so very excited to continue this work at Colorado State University.”
Pedersen grew up in a military family and identifies as third-culture kid, meaning she was raised in a culture other than her parents’ or the culture of her country of nationality. She attended 16 different schools as her family moved in accordance with her father’s career, beginning with Montessori school in Athens and graduating from high school at the International School in Bangkok. She is the first in her family to earn a college degree.
Pedersen comes to Colorado State as the university recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, a job she is ready for because her experience leading academics at Cal Poly.
“This fall is like a big research project,” she said. “We are learning and exploring to see how we put in place solutions that will allow the continuity of teaching, research and student life. There are big challenges, but that brings about opportunities for change. We must be flexible and be ready to pivot at any time. The reality is this virus will run through the populace. How do we protect the vulnerable?”
As Provost and Executive Vice President, Pedersen will help outline CSU’s strategic priorities.
“Student success is priority No. 1. Get them to graduation,” she said.
In her first months at CSU, Pedersen will engage in an accelerated learning curve on all aspects of Colorado State.
“I want to meet as many people as possible and help to identify what our strategic goals should be,” Pedersen said, noting she will meet with each division to begin understanding their strategic goals and budgets. “We will sit down together and work together.”
Kathleen Enz Finken, who served as Provost at Cal-Poly before retiring in July of 2019, praised Pedersen’s leadership and ability to find solutions to complex challenges through collaboration.
“Dr. Pedersen is a leader of deep experience and great integrity” Enz Finken said. “She has demonstrated passion and skill in successfully navigating the many challenges we face in higher education. She believes that a university will thrive when you actively support students, faculty, and staff. She’s an amazing colleague and a wonderful friend.”
Pedersen said she understands equity is paramount to excellence.
“Being a woman in science was a challenge — I’ve had to work twice as hard in that environment,” she said. “We have the responsibility to advocate, to make sure our policies are there to support everyone.”
As a researcher, Pedersen often brought in students to aid in her research to expand their opportunities to learn.
With an academic background in world food security and food systems, Pedersen said she is keenly interested in the role of Colorado State to support agricultural production within the state and beyond, and to continue to build on Colorado State’s reputation as the top sustainable institution of higher education in the nation.
“Sustainability drives everything in food systems, and we need to bring that mindset to every aspect of our operations to ensure we not just maintain but advance our abilities in clean energy, clean water, and clean air.”
Pedersen earned her B.A. in Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and both her M.S. and Ph.D. in Public Health Nutrition with a minor in lipid biochemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her primary research focused on lipid metabolism and nutrition.