David Christiansen to retire as Penn State York chancellor

Christiansen contributed 20 years of service to the University
Two men in regalia shaking hands at a graduation ceremony.

Penn State York Chancellor David Christiansen shakes hands with Cole Sinnott, class of 2024, during the spring 2024 commencement ceremony in May.

Credit: Jess Price

YORK, Pa. — David Christiansen, Penn State York chancellor, has announced his retirement from Penn State, effective June 28. Chancellor Marilyn Wells from the Brandywine campus will oversee the York campus upon his departure.

Christiansen began his work with the University 20 years ago, first serving as professor of classics and associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Behrend in 2004 before transitioning to associate vice president and senior associate dean in the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses (OVPCC) at University Park. He assumed his role as Penn State York chancellor in 2018.

“David Christiansen’s Penn State career has spanned several decades and multiple campuses,” said Margo DelliCarpini, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor. “He realized accomplishments through each position and established himself as a dedicated leader, working diligently to support students, faculty, staff and alumni. We are very grateful for his leadership and will miss him greatly.”

“We place a high priority on academic excellence here at Penn State, and nobody embodies that more than David,” said Christiansen’s longtime colleague Bill Gonda, senior director of Strategic Communications for Penn State Behrend. “From my time working with him at Behrend through to the programs he championed in the OVPCC and in his chancellorship of Penn State York, he’s always been focused on the initiatives and strategies that will create the best possible experience for students. I think Penn State is all the better for having had David among its leaders.”

Prior to his time at Penn State, Christiansen worked at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, where he was a professor of classics before taking on administrative duties as director of interdisciplinary studies, later becoming dean of the Joseph Baldwin Academy.

Lasting contributions to the University and its students

Over the course of his career at Penn State, Christiansen has overseen the creation of more than 90 academic programs across the University. He co-chaired Penn State’s Enhanced Education Pathways committee, which created several programs to increase the graduation rates of first-generation and low-income students, including the Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) program and Complete Penn State. In addition to his active engagement in the local business community, he worked with the University’s Development Office to create the Open Doors Program, which raised more than $650 million in endowed scholarship and gifts to support undergraduate students.

“David has been a very strong advocate for the Commonwealth Campuses, always placing our students, staff and faculty at the forefront of his efforts,” said Penny Carlson, assistant vice president and executive director for academic services and assessment in the OVPCC. “He made contributions that will endure at Penn State, including the expansion of campus academic program portfolios, development of Open Doors scholarship programs, and advancement of international student recruitment to our campuses. David will long be remembered as a caring colleague, and I wish him all the best going forward.”

Leading by example at the York campus

Many campus leaders expressed their appreciation for Christiansen’s steadfast leadership through the pandemic and beyond, citing his professionalism and vision as emblematic of his commitment to the community and its students.

“Since Dr. Christiansen took over as chancellor in 2018, Penn State York has evolved in many positive ways,” said Michael Allen, advisory board president. “Under his leadership, the faculty, staff and advisory board collaborated on an enhanced strategic planning initiative that has contributed to an improved student experience and a more prominent campus image within the York community. Most of all, Dave’s love of learning and dedication to scholarship made him a wonderful example for Penn State York students and faculty.”

Allen also noted that Christiansen helped strengthen Penn State’s partnership with Vidyalankar School of Technology in India, where he and a team of Penn Staters spent 10 days cultivating international relationships as part of the education trade mission.

Ryan Service Manzo, director of enrollment at Penn State York, said, “I wish to express my gratitude for Dr. Christiansen’s leadership over his six-year tenure. He has led us through difficult periods, including enrollment declines, a pandemic and university reorganization. Through that time, he maintained a high level of dedication, empathy, intelligence and professionalism that I will use as a model for the rest of my career.”

Robert Farrell, Penn State York's director of academic affairs, added, “David Christiansen’s forward way of thinking and the multitude of experience as a leader he brought with him moved Penn State York forward on many fronts. He took the time to work with and cultivate the unique talents of each member of the campus community to create new opportunities for all, particularly our students. We all wish him well in his retirement. He will be missed.”

Leadership and career development enhancements at Penn State York

Christiansen saw the importance of fostering leadership development opportunities on campus and in the community. He worked with Donald Graham, local business leader and philanthropist, to foster the growth of the Graham Fellows Program for Entrepreneurial Leadership, where students from any major can hone their skills in business etiquette, professionalism and emotional intelligence.

“Dr. Christiansen has been a great mentor for me personally — he was happy to answer any question I had from best practices to strategic planning,” said Allan Lehman, director of the Graham Center for Innovation and Collaboration. “His time at York saw the opening of the Graham Center for Innovation and Collaboration and pushed our campus’ community engagement forward. His presence on campus and in the community will be missed. A big thank you to Dr. Christiansen for his steadfast leadership of the campus and always striving to improve the opportunities we provide our students.”

The 7,945-square-foot Graham Center for Innovation and Collaboration, which was completed in 2021, was a $5 million enhancement to the York campus.

Athletics and student life at Penn State York

A common thread among all those who worked with Christiansen was his dedication to the students.

“Dr. Christiansen has been a strong supporter of the student experience at Penn State York,” said Scott Simonds, director of student affairs at Penn State York. “His efforts to improve the student transition to Penn State resulted in the campus re-adopting the First Year Seminar for all new baccalaureate students as well as enhancements to New Student Welcome and the Academic Convocation programs.”

Jeff Barkdoll, director of athletics at Penn State York, added, “Dr. Christiansen has been an advocate for athletics at the York campus since his arrival. Wanting the best possible experience for our student-athletes, he has the initiative to create opportunities and put action plans into place. Under his leadership, we were able to expand the intercollegiate sports we offered, bringing the total number of intercollegiate sports from five to seven. We saw improvements to our campus athletic facilities and can call WellSpan Park home for our baseball team. This was all made possible by Dr. Christiansen’s vision and unwavering support of athletics, as he truly realizes the value that athletics brings to a campus. On behalf of the entire athletic department, it is with much gratitude that we offer our heartfelt thanks, and wish him, his wife, Cindy, and their family all the best.”