University of South Florida President Rhea Law announced Wednesday morning that she had selected Christian Hardigree to lead the St. Petersburg campus into the future as its next regional chancellor.
Hardigree’s selection follows a national search to replace Dr. Martin Tadlock, a leader popular with students and the surrounding community. Mayor Ken Welch recently recognized May 5, 2022, as Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock Day in honor of his service.
Hardigree, one of three finalists following Bjong “Wolf” Yeigh’s withdrawal, is the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University (MSU) in Denver. MSU is the third largest and only open-access college in Colorado. Before her role at MSU, Hardigree served as the founding director and professor at the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia.
“We are thrilled to welcome Christian Hardigree, a leader who brings a demonstrated history of academic experience, as well as an excellent record of serving the communities she has been a part of throughout her career,” said Law in an email announcing the news.
“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.”
According to the release, Hardigree helped the MSU School of Hospitality transform to a free-standing school and was responsible for $3.7 million in external funding. The school represents the largest hospitality program in the Denver region, and Hardigree led a redesign of the curriculum through its six degrees and majors, eight minors and nine certificates.
Law also credited Hardigree’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that helped increase the minority student population by over 8%. She also designed, launched and funded an initiative to utilize open education resources in 80% of courses, making learning materials more accessible, especially to underserved students.
In a statement, Hardigree said she fell in love with the faculty, staff, students and surrounding community during her visits to the St. Petersburg campus.
“It’s clearly a special place, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead such a vibrant campus,” she said.
The USFSP Regional Chancellor Search Committee whittled a pool of 56 applicants down to four finalists. Following Yeigh’s withdrawal, Law selected Hardigree from a group of three finalists that included Melissa Gruys and Kanika Tomalin.
A fifth-generation St. Petersburg resident and former deputy mayor, Tomalin was the lone finalist with ties to the city. While she currently serves as the vice president for strategy and chief operating officer at Eckerd College, Tomalin has never held a teaching position.
Gruys is currently the dean of the Richard T. Doermer School of Business at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where she oversees over 100 employees and manages the Student Success Center. Prior to her tenure at Purdue, Gruys served as chair of the Department of Management and International Business at Wright State University’s Raj Soin College of Business.
“Chancellor Hardigree brings a compelling mix of energy, enthusiasm and experience to this vital position,” said Melissa Seixas, chair of the USFSP Campus advisory board and a member of the USF Board of Trustees, in a statement.
“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.”
Hardigree will begin her new role as USFSP’s leader July 1.