Coleen Coleman Receives Jean Shedd Award

Coleen Coleman Receives Jean Shedd Award

Coleen Coleman "Coleen Coleman is not only SESP’s MVP; she is surely one of Northwestern’s," said Dean David Figlio.

Coleen Coleman (BS88, MS91), senior associate dean at the School of Education and Social Policy, received the 2021 Jean E. Shedd University Citizenship Award for her selfless leadership, her empathy and advocacy, and her capacity for solving problems under pressure.

Coleman, who recently celebrated her 30th anniversary at Northwestern, learned of the award at a surprise ceremony on Oct. 20 that included colleagues, mentors, and Jean Shedd, the award’s namesake and 2018 recipient.

“I couldn’t be more honored to receive an award in your name,” Coleman said to Shedd. “The faculty, staff, and students are what motivates me. I’m not here by accident — I’m here because I choose it every day."

Like Shedd, Coleman has dedicated the majority of her life to Northwestern University, acting as the School's "rock" for most of her career. A native of Long Island, N.Y., she landed in the Midwest in 1984 after her father set his heart on Northwestern for her, and earned her degree from the School of Communication. Later, she earned her master’s in education at the School of Education and Social Policy, making her a double purple alumna.

Three decades later, “Coleen is the hero of the School—the behind-the-scenes force who thrives in times of crisis, and through her careful strategic work is responsible for the fact that SESP has many fewer times of crisis,” said SESP Dean David Figlio.

“She thinks ahead, extinguishes fires, and provides the support others need to do good work and be successful in their own right, while not caring whether she is recognized or rewarded. She serves as my chief of staff, chief operating officer, and chief strategic partner, all rolled into one," Figlio said.

Coleman is known for bringing energy, direction, a sharp wit, and humor into every room and Zoom meeting she has attended. Her ability to draw on differing perspectives has helped bridge departments throughout Northwestern, where she has served at department, School and University-wide levels, on committees and governance groups. "Coleman has been a mentor and advisor to countless faculty, staff, students, and alumni, in part because she can quickly synthesize information, spot gaps, and ask the right, albeit sometimes tough, questions," Figlio said.

“Coleen has a way of sharing wisdom, of gently guiding the SESP executive committee away from rocky shores and towards thoughtful choices, while affirming everyone’s perspective and without seeking credit,” added Jonathan Guryan, SESP executive committee chair and Lawyer Taylor Professor of Education and Social Policy.  

Cultivating Growth

Coleman has been instrumental in shepherding SESP’s overall growth, from the student population and the endowment to the programs and physical spaces.

Over the past two decades, SESP undergraduate and graduate enrollment increased. Faculty now receive nearly seven times more research funding than 20 years ago, and the School's annual fundraising has more than doubled in just the last three years, in part due to Coleman's deft budgeting, Figlio said.

The Center for Talent Development (CTD) budget was around $500,000 when it started. It has reached $11 million and “Coleen has guided me every step of the way,” said CTD director Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, who has worked with Coleman for thirty years.

CTD, which relies on in person-programming revenue, was hit hard by COVID-19-related closures. Coleman worked with Olszewski-Kubilius to figure out the best ways to maintain both the revenue base and relationships with providers of out of school programming. “She helped rethink and support our need to significantly shift the nature of our temporary staffing,” Olszewski-Kubilius said. “She has been my sounding board throughout to manage the effects of the pandemic on the center.

Coleman also was an integral part of creating and launching two of SESP’s core offerings, the Master’s in Learning and Organizational Change program and the Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy program. Originally, elements of those concentrations were part of the Master’s in Education degree. Coleman borrowed from her experience as a student in the “blended” program to help separate the tracks and create new degree programs.

Other flagship programs that she helped build, nurture, and expand include NU-TEACH, Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools, and Northwestern Academy – Evanston.

An active citizen of the University, Coleman has been involved in the COVID Crisis Committee, the Return to Campus Committee, the School of Education and Social Policy Executive Board, the Career Development Working Group, the Graduate School Administrative Board, the University Compliance Committee, the Human Resources Leadership Advisory Council, the Associate Deans for Faculty Committee, Senior Administrative Leaders, the Appropriated Budget Advisory Group, and the Staff Survey Career Development Team.

“Whenever the University needs a thought partner, Coleen is on the short list, and for good reason,” Figlio said. “She is not only SESP’s MVP; she is surely one of Northwestern’s.”

By Julie Deardorff, Photo by Steve Drey
Last Modified: 10/21/21