All News

Karlene Burrell-McRae Named Bryn Mawr’s Next Dean of the Undergraduate College

October 4, 2022
Karlene Burrell-McRae, image courtesy of Colby College

The below message was sent by President Cassidy on Oct. 4, 2022

Dear faculty, staff, and students:

It is my great pleasure to announce the appointment of Karlene Burrell-McRae as Bryn Mawr’s next Dean of the Undergraduate College. Karlene joins us from Colby College, where she is Dean of the College, and will officially begin her work with us on July 1, 2023. 

Karlene brings deep expertise and experience in the creation of a fully integrated student experience that puts student wellbeing at the center and to ensuring equity regarding the impact of policies and procedures. She is also committed to transformative justice practices for managing organizational change and conflict resolution. She is especially delighted to extend her efforts to an institution that promotes gender equity and the advancement of women.

Her work at Colby College included the elevation of student support through integrative advising, the expansion of initiatives to advance research, internship and study-away opportunities, and the development of a new residential model blending an inclusive first-year housing experience with integrated and comprehensive programming. She also launched a new office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that has introduced restorative justice practices and partnered with faculty and staff to incorporate DEI principles in all aspects of college life.

Previously, Karlene was associate dean of students and executive director of the Center for Identity + Inclusion at the University of Chicago, which included the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the LGBTQ Student Life Office, and the Office of Student Support Services, which focused on first generation, lower income, and undocumented students’ experiences. She also served as the assistant dean of the college and director of the Black Cultural Center at Swarthmore College and formerly spent 18 years at the University of Pennsylvania, where she held numerous positions with increasing responsibility within the Division of University Life, including her role as the inaugural director of Makuu, the university’s Black cultural center. From the University of Pennsylvania, she earned a doctorate in higher education, a Master of Social Work, and a Master of Science in education, and her Bachelor of Arts from Colby College.

This list of experiences does not fully capture Karlene’s love of students; her ability to lead and carry out a strategic plan; her management skills; her holistic approach to academic support, co-curricular programming, and student life; and her deep experiences of integrating equity and inclusion in all aspects of campus life. On a personal note, Karlene is a great communicator, listening to others with real respect and care. She is enthusiastic, warm, kind, and has a spirit of joy and fun that is contagious.  She brings great energy, excitement, and commitment to this position.

Thank you to Janet Shapiro who chaired our search committee and to the committee members for your service. I am also grateful to members of the community who took the time to share their thoughts about the position and applicant qualifications with the search committee to inform the search process.  Our campus will enjoy the chance to meet with this collaborative, energetic, and creative leader in person on October 27-28. More information about her visit will be forthcoming. 

Please extend a warm welcome to Karlene as she joins our community.



Kim Cassidy

Tagged as