Dr. Davidson grew up in a Navy family in California and Virginia and was commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant in 1988. She flew combat support, airdrop, and humanitarian air mobility missions in the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East in both the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the Boeing C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft, and also served as an instructor pilot at the United States Air Force Academy. She was a Distinguished Graduate of Air Force Squadron Officers’ School and was the first woman to fly the Air Force’s tactical C-130.
Dr. Davidson became president of Metropolitan State University of Denver on July 24, 2017. Her primary focus is on student retention and graduation – better serving the nearly 20,000 current students that call the University home and preparing them to launch into the workforce. While MSU Denver is a leader in educating Coloradans through programs relevant to the state’s economy, Davidson aims to build the institution’s reputation both nationally and internationally. She served as Under Secretary of the United States Navy from 2016 to 2017. She is the author of Lifting the Fog of Peace: How Americans Learned to Fight Modern War, a study of organizational learning and institutional change within the U.S. military.
Following the conclusion of her Air Force career in 1998, Davidson pursued doctoral studies in international affairs at the University of South Carolina. From 2006 to 2008, she served as Director of Stability Operations Capabilities within the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict). She was founding director of the Consortium for Complex Operations, later renamed the Center for Complex Operations (CCO), a research center within the National Defense University that studies military and civilian coordination in stability operations.
From 2009 to 2012, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans, where she oversaw the formulation and review of military war plans and global force posture policy. She was recognized with the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.
Following her service in the Pentagon, Dr. Davidson became an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Public Policy at George Mason University, where she taught courses on national security policy and civil-military relations.
On January 17, 2014, Dr. Davidson accepted the position of Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. During this time, Davidson also served as a presidentially appointed member of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which recommended changes to service structure and management policies, as well as a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board.
On September 18, 2015, it was announced that she had been nominated by President Barack Obama to become Under Secretary of the United States Navy.She was confirmed by the United States Congress and assumed her post on March 17, 2016.
On February 14, 2017, Metropolitan State University of Denver announced that Dr. Davidson would become the next president of the university.