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Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94, currently associate dean of students and executive director of the Center for Identity + Inclusion at the University of Chicago, has been named dean of the College at Colby. In this role Burrell-McRae will have broad oversight of the student experience at Colby and will work to fully integrate Colby’s academic and campus life programs. She will have responsibility for the several departments that have direct responsibility for student and campus life and will be the lead officer overseeing campus-wide diversity and civic engagement efforts.
Burrell-McRae, who graduated from Colby in 1994, earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked there, and later at Swarthmore College, in progressively responsible roles in student and multicultural affairs.
“Karlene is bringing back to Colby her creative, deep intellect, her passion for developing extraordinary opportunities for students, and her commitment to a diverse and just community,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “Her experiences at other top colleges and universities have prepared her to return to Colby and help lead the College into the future.” Burrell-McRae begins her new role July 1, 2016.
Burrell-McRae joins Colby’s administration in this capacity at a crucial time in the College’s history. With a recent surge in applications and an increasingly generous financial aid program, Colby is attracting a historically diverse pool of the most-talented students. The College is committed to ensuring that all students experience the best of a Colby education in a fully inclusive environment.
“The opportunity to participate in leading transformation and institutional change at my alma mater is an exciting one,” said Burrell-McRae. “I admire Colby’s institutional commitment to unifying the campus community through the intersections and integration of intellectual engagement, student life, and community citizenship. I am honored to have been chosen for this role, and I can’t wait to get started.”
As a Colby trustee since 2014, Burrell-McRae emerged as an important voice on the board, using her experience as an educator to inform strategy and decisions. She was vice chair of the Nominations Committee and a member of the Student Affairs Committee, among others. “Karlene brought valuable perspective and inquisitiveness to the work of the Board of Trustees,” said Chair of the Board Robert E. Diamond Jr. ’73, P’12. “She helped us all to explore questions in different, more nuanced ways, and she will be an absolutely terrific leader for Colby.”
Burrell-McRae was chosen following a national search. The search committee consisted of seven members of the faculty, several administrators and staff, and four students. Elizabeth Paulino ’18, of Worcester, Mass., was among them. “Through several meetings with her, we saw a warmth of character and genuine interest in students’ lives that showed us her deep commitment to listening first,” she said. “Karlene is not afraid to ask the tough questions—the kind that will really make you think.”
Burrell-McRae will be joined in Waterville by her husband and two children.
Photo credit Christine Otte Photography