For Margaret Klawunn ’82, the challenges of being vice president for campus life at Brown University are a lot like the rigors and rewards of parenting. Responsible for more than a dozen departments covering all aspects of the university’s student life, Klawunn can expect nonstop meetings, evening events, and the occasional late-night crisis. “Everything about my job is 24/7,” Klawunn said.
The juggling act continues at home, where Klawunn and husband Rick Benjamin, a poet and professor, are raising three active teenagers, twins Gil and Luke and daughter Sarah.
An English major and education minor at Colby, Klawunn took English Professor Phyllis Mannocchi’s first women’s studies course, which influenced Klawunn’s graduate work on 19th- and 20th-century American women writers. While working on her doctorate at Rutgers University, a job in the office of student affairs piqued her interest in college administration, but she also wanted to teach. Her first job at Brown combined those interests: directing the women’s center and teaching English and gender studies. Her schedule is too jam-packed to teach these days, but Klawunn still enjoys interacting with students as an academic advisor.
When Klawunn and her staff aren’t talking to students face to face, they keep in touch through e-mail, cell phone, and Facebook. If there’s an upcoming campus event, for example, photos and updates are posted on Facebook as well as on the Brown website. “That’s how students communicate, and that’s what they expect,” she said.
The communication can originate anywhere in the world. “In Campus Life, we have to think globally,” Klawunn said. “Our students and faculty are studying or doing research all over the world, and that means we need to be prepared to respond to any situation that occurs anywhere.” If there is a crisis in another country, Klawunn’s staff checks to see if Brown students or faculty members are there. If so, they offer assistance. Depending on the nature of the situation, Campus Life might offer an on-campus educational program, memorial service, or fundraiser.
“Some of my work is responding to a crisis or bad moment, but it’s all with the aim of helping students realize everything they want out of their time at Brown,” she said.
—Lori Douglas Clark ’82