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Christian Hardigree named USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor

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University of South Florida
Christian Hardigree joins USF St. Petersburg from Metropolitan State University in Denver, where she most recently was dean of the School of Hospitality.

Christian Hardigree most recently served as the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The University of South Florida has tapped Christian Hardigree to serve as the next regional chancellor of its St. Petersburg campus.

Hardigree most recently served as the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

She previously was the founding director and professor of the Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Before that, Hardigree was a professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, and eventually became department chair of Hotel Management. She held other administrative roles at UNLV, including 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 think the background of being from hospitality means that I really do approach things from being in service to others and making sure that I am listening in ways that actively engage opportunities for us to move forward and to propel the entire institution as well as our campus," Hardigree told reporters Wednesday.

Hardigree was chosen by USF President Rhea Law over two other finalists — Kanika Tomalin, former deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and current chief operating officer and vice president of strategy at Eckerd College, and Melissa Gruys, the dean of the School of Business at Purdue University Fort Wayne — after a national search process.

A fourth finalist, Bjong "Wolf" Yeigh, former chancellor of the University of Washington Bothell, withdrew his name before a round of town halls with the USF St. Petersburg campus community.

"What I specifically was looking for someone that can be a true leader, someone that can take this campus and move it to the next step," Law said Wednesday. "We have a number of new programs that are coming online, we have the ability to boost some of our existing programs to heights that we never dreamed of before. So we need someone that's got an academic background, someone that is capable of putting together curriculum and programming to think about how to move forward.

"I also looked for someone who would fit in with the community, someone who could immediately get involved with the (St. Petersburg) Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Partnership ... and be a real integral part of St. Petersburg and be able to reach out across all of our campuses to benefit from having all of those resources at their fingertips," she added. "I believe that Christian Hardigree is that person."

And, coining a new verb, Hardigree said she's planning to "sponge" as much information as possible when she starts her new job July 1.

"I think meeting with people, not just within the campus, the students, the staff, faculty, the community, Pinellas County, the state, it's really a matter of learning and absorbing as much as humanly possible in order to really appreciate the journey that's taken us to this place," she said.

"As we start to think about how do we move forward (as) 'One USF,' how do we be a good partner for the entire institution, but how do we also really highlight the special nature of this vibrant campus?"

Hardigree replaces Martin Tadlock, who is stepping down after five years as regional chancellor to return to a teaching role in the USF College of Education.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.