Q & A: VP of Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren Coleman

The new administrator discusses the future of her position and welcomes new students to campus.

By Rebecca Guterman

Since her promotion to Vice President of Campus Life and Student Services, Karen Warren Coleman has had to hit the ground running. Since she took over from Kim Goff-Crews in July, the new VP has already rid students of their P.E. requirement and plans to do more. The Maroon spoke to the new vice president about her new role.

Q: How is your new role different and similar to the role you had previously?

A: My main responsibility is to ensure that Campus and Student Life continues to provide an outstanding student and community experience and looks for ways to make our community even stronger. Although I was deeply engaged in issues as a leader in my previous role, it is now my responsibility to develop and implement a vision for Campus and Student Life. I’ve been living and breathing the values of this University, but this gives me the opportunity to make an even greater difference in how we put those values into practice.

Since I arrived at the University I’ve been humbled by the extraordinary depth and breadth of our students’ life experiences and aspirations. Interacting with students is profoundly important to me, and I anticipate deepening that relationship as vice president. I’ll do a lot of listening. One of my jobs is to make sure we are aware of our students’ voices and needs.

Q: What are some of the plans you have for your new role?

A: I’m in the early stages of planning an agenda, and my thinking needs to be informed by student involvement and collaboration. One of my priorities is identifying areas where we can do the most to help our university community members develop their full potential, and then working with faculty, staff and students to bring that about. There are opportunities for that kind of partnership in virtually all of the departments within Campus and Student Life.

Q: What are you most proud of from your time as Associate Vice President for Campus Life?

A: Supervising the creation of UChicago Dining [in fall 2011] and the start-up of the New South Campus Residence Hall [in fall 2009] were two major projects that taught us a lot and will be valuable points of reference as we move ahead. Every project like that gives us countless chances to build and deepen the sense of community and connection on campus. I think this university community has gotten stronger with every year recently, and that’s something we should all be proud of and build upon as we go forward.

During my time as AVP, I was also deeply involved in diversity issues on campus, including serving on the President’s Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) and working closely with the Ad Hoc Committee of Campus and Student Life, Student Government, and the Alliance for Student and Community Rights. I continue to serve as a member of the DLC, the Business Diversity Committee and DLC Membership Committee. Diversity and inclusion are central to the University’s work of research and education. Ensuring that the University maintains a diverse, inclusive and respectful community is a key priority for me and for Campus and Student Life.

Q: What would you like to say to incoming students?

Welcome to the University of Chicago. As a new student at the University, you are joining one of the world’s great communities of scholars and are embarking on an exciting experience that will challenge and change you.

The University of Chicago community will empower you to experience the depth of your intellectual curiosity and the breadth of your humanity. The questions you will learn to ask, the knowledge you will come to master, and the connections between what you learn inside the classroom and what you experience outside of it will serve you well.

It is our greatest honor to welcome you and embrace the beginning of your journey.

-Additional reporting by Jordan Larson and Sharan Shetty