CSU College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project celebrates former dean

Nancy Hartley smiling at an outdoor event

Nancy Hartley

Nancy Hartley is an administrator with a vision; in her time as dean of the Colorado State University College of Applied Human Sciences (now Health and Human Sciences) she had the goal of catapulting the college into an era of excellence. To accomplish this, she focused on increasing strategic initiatives and programs within the college, developing strong ties between the college and the Fort Collins community, and expanding internship opportunities for students.

Hartley has routinely brought honor to the College through her stalwart efforts to elevate the students and faculty she served to further academic heights. A hallmark of Hartley’s leadership was her support for women and people from marginalized populations. She was involved in initiatives to support diversity in the College, as well as women faculty and administrators. Now, in recognition of her outstanding contributions, Hartley is being celebrated as one of the College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project honorees for 2022.

“We are so pleased to honor former dean, Nancy Hartley, for her incredible dedication to our college,” said Lise Youngblade, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “Her ability to forge connections and build strategic partnerships has laid the groundwork for our growth and success. As dean of the college, I experience every day the legacy of what she has helped to build. I am incredibly grateful for her visionary leadership.”

Beginnings in education

Hartley grew up in Chicago, Illinois, before heading to Southern Illinois University where she earned her undergraduate degree in social work, with minors in psychology and special education. She then went on to earn her master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Illinois, Springfield.

It wasn’t until she decided to pursue her doctorate that Hartley made the jump from Illinois to Colorado State University, where she graduated with her Ph.D. in vocational education administration from the School of Education in 1975, specializing in education and training for the transition from school to work and a focus on special needs populations.

Her career in higher education began at Keene State College in New Hampshire, where Hartley took on the role of assistant professor before moving to the University of Northern Colorado in 1977.

Hartley returned to CSU in 1989, this time as a faculty member in the School of Education, where her leadership skills elevated her as director. After two years, she assumed the role of interim dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences and was then tapped for the permanent position of dean, where she served from 1994 to 2004, and again from 2010 to 2011 during a leadership transition in the college.

Hartley’s impact as dean

Under Hartley’s thoughtful and capable leadership, the College of Applied Human Sciences flourished. She made it a point to increase the College’s influence at CSU, and she is proud of several accomplishments during her time as dean.

Hartley prioritized building strong ties within the community through developing partnerships and initiatives between CSU’s School of Education and the Poudre School District, forming the Research and Development Center for the Advancement of Student Learning, with the purpose of researching critical problems within Fort Collins schools and evaluating the effectiveness of student programs.

Hartley also prioritized increasing internship opportunities through the Service Learning/AmeriCorps grant that expanded initiatives within the college and allowed for the creation of many more internships and field experience opportunities for students. The college was one of the first at CSU to initiate a connection to this grant.

Hartley also was instrumental in the creation or growth of several facilities, programs, and initiatives within the college including the following:

  • Institute for the Built Environment
  • Human Performance Clinical Research Laboratory
  • Research and Development Center for the Advancement of Student Learning (R&D Center)
  • Early Childhood Center (expanded from a room in the Gifford Building to its own location in the renovated Washington School)
  • Fermentation Science and Technology major
  • Design and Merchandising Historic Costume and Textiles Collection (which later became the Avenir Museum)
  • She also started conversations with the college leadership team to create Ph.D. programs for many departments within the College.

Industry and private partnerships

A man in a wheelchair surrounded by three others in academic regalia
Nancy Hartley and others honor Joseph Phelps at commencement

Hartley continually supported development and fundraising for the College, both when she was dean and since that time. She recognized the importance of working with donors to college programs to the great benefit of the university and to students. In 1999, a $3.2 million gift from Lectra Systems was given to the Department of Design and Merchandising, providing state-of-the-art computer software – the largest gift in the university’s history at that time. In 2001, a $1.5 million gift from Joseph Phelps, CEO and chairman of Hensel Phelps Construction Co., established an endowed chair in the Department of Construction Management.

The Human Performance Clinical Research Laboratory in Health and Exercise Science opened in May 2002 – largely supported by private gifts. At that time, the laboratory was a 5,730 square-foot facility providing cutting-edge research, outreach, and disease prevention programs, and serving as a venue for clinical training and experience for undergraduate and graduate students. It has since undergone several renovations and expansions and has been named a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence at CSU.

Mr. Blackwell and Nancy Hartley
Mr. Blackwell and Nancy Hartley

Hartley helped foster partnerships between the Department of Construction Management and professionals in the construction industry which resulted in industry support such as for the remodel of the Guggenheim Building. It was through her work with the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection that the first community fashion show with Richard Blackwell (known by the moniker Mr. Blackwell, a well-known apparel designer who visited CSU in 1996) was possible.

Since her tenure as Dean, these departments and others have continued their fundraising and program achievements, building on these early successes. Design and Merchandising secured significant gifts to build permanent space and endowments for the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising, and Construction Management created the Preconstruction Center, which was entirely industry-supported.

Five deans of CSU's College of Health and Human Sciences pose for a group photo
Current and former CHHS deans: April Mason, Lise Youngblade, Ellie Gilfoyle, Jeff McCubbin, and Nancy Hartley

Hartley retired from her position as dean of the College in August 2004, but it would not be her last time wearing that hat. In 2010, six years after her retirement, Hartley re-affirmed her dedication to CSU, guiding CHHS as the interim dean of the College while a search was conducted to replace April Mason, the previous dean, that resulted in the hire of Dean Jeff McCubbin.

Lise Youngblade, current Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences was the head of Department of Human Development and Family Studies at that time.

“Not only did Nancy ‘hold the ship’ together during this time, but she provided exceptional leadership that allowed us to not just survive, but to thrive,” said Youngblade.

Service in support of women and diverse populations

Hartley has also been dedicated to the advancement of women throughout her career at the local, university, and state levels. She served on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, the Women in Deanship Study Group, and was one of the founding members of WomenGive, a subsidiary of United Way, where she served on the scholarship committee that provides grants to cover childcare to single mothers so that they can pursue a college degree. She is also a supporter of Project Self-Sufficiency, a non-profit that helps remove barriers to employment for single parents such as affordable housing, access to childcare, and reliable transportation.

Two women smiling at a party
Nancy Hartley and Kevin Oltjenbruns

At a time when she was the only woman dean at CSU, Hartley was key in encouraging and mentoring women both personally and professionally to move into key leadership positions. She was an integral part of the Leadership Institute for Women and the Academic Management Institute. Hartley also worked to support women and men from minoritized populations with faculty bridge appointments and through a partnership with Southern University in Louisiana to bring graduate students to the college.

At CSU, Hartley partnered with her friend and colleague, administrator Kevin Oltjenbruns, to start an informal networking group known as WAC to support women in administrative positions across CSU.

Honors and awards

While at CSU, Hartley received several prestigious honors and awards recognizing her extraordinary leadership, including:

  • CSU College of Health and Human Sciences Honor Alumna Award
  • CSU Women’s Caucus/Margaret B. Hazaleus Award
  • Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award
  • CSU Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award
  • Poudre Valley Health System Community Service Award
  • Finalist for the Woman’s Foundation of Colorado, Unique Woman of Colorado

Roles outside of CSU

Hartley has served on a multitude of boards during her career, including the Poudre Valley Health System Board, the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the National Network for Educational Renewal, the Colorado Partnership for Educational Renewal, the Colorado Council of Deans of Education, and others.

After her retirement from CSU, Hartley served as a consultant to several state and national agencies from 2005 to 2018. She worked with the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Colorado Community College System.

An exciting journey for Hartley was when she was the academic dean for the Semester at Sea program in Spring 2018, a life-changing experience for students, faculty, and staff. She planned to sail again in Spring 2021, but that voyage was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she is scheduled to embark as academic dean in Spring 2023.

Hartley’s outstanding legacy of leadership is recognized through the College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project. To watch a video about Hartley and to make a gift in her honor, go to her Legacies webpage. You can support the Nancy Hartley Student Success fund which supports programming in the college to facilitate undergraduate students’ pathways to success. Hartley was honored at the Legacies and Leaders event on April 14, 2022. View photos from the event.

About the Legacies Project

The College of Health and Human Sciences Legacies Project honors the personal and professional histories of former faculty, staff, and alumni of the College. The project has highlighted the achievements of our honorees and preserved their stories since 2012.

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Melanie Chaffey contributed to this story