Northwestern University: Coleen Coleman named Jean E. Shedd Award recipient

Coleen Coleman, senior associate dean of the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) at Northwestern, was selected for the 2021 Jean E. Shedd University Citizenship Award.

Coleman received the award at a surprise ceremony on Oct. 20 that included colleagues, mentors and Jean Shedd, the award’s namesake and 2018 recipient. Coleman was greeted by a room filled with clapping, cheering and a quiet “surprise!” that caused an eruption of laughter. The applause and laughter continued as Coleen received the honor and later spoke, first remarking that she couldn’t stop smiling.

“I couldn’t be more honored,” Coleman said. “The faculty, staff and students are what motivates me. I’m not here by accident — I’m here because I choose it every day. At 25, I was called ‘the rock’ in my annual review, and I hope to still be that.”

Coleman has centered community during her tenure at the school, serving on boards and advisory councils across campus. According to Shedd, recipients have shared a commitment to mentorship of students, staff and faculty members and encouraged individual growth within and outside of the University.

“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,” said Jonathan Guryan, SESP executive committee chair and Lawyer Taylor Professor of Education and Social Policy.

A double alum of Northwestern, Coleman has worked at the University for 30 years and has dedicated most of her life to the school. She has served at department, school and University-wide levels, helping bridge departments throughout Northwestern with her ability to “draw on different perspectives.”

“Coleen is the hero of our School — the behind-the-scenes force who thrives in times of crisis,” said SESP Dean David Figlio in his nomination form. “I am nominating Coleen for her selfless leadership, her empathy and advocacy, and her ability to make us laugh during COVID-19 when we often wanted to cry.”

As associate dean of SESP, Coleman has been instrumental in the growth of the school’s student population, endowment and physical space. Coleman has used transformative leadership skills in “creating, nurturing and expanding” various programs around the School, including the Center for Talent Development (CTD), Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools and Northwestern Academy – Evanston, according to Figlio.

Tweet this quote
She is not only SESP’s MVP; she is surely one of Northwestern’s.”

David Figlio, SESP dean
Coleman helped grow the budget of CTD from around $500,000 when it first started to $11 million, and guided the Center through financial difficulty, resulting from pandemic-related closures. She also led a year-long reorganization of the program centering diversity and inclusion of students, initiating a scholarship support program and a new organizational structure more conducive to developing talents.

Coleman’s appointments are numerous. She serves on the COVID-19 Crisis Committee; the Return-to-Campus Committee, SESP Executive Committee; the Career Development Working Group; The Graduate School Administrative Board; the University Compliance Committee; Human Resources Leadership Advisory Council; Associate Deans for Faculty Committee; Senior Administrative Leaders; 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 in his nomination. “She is not only SESP’s MVP; she is surely one of Northwestern’s.”

The Jean E. Shedd University Citizenship Award was created in honor of Jean Shedd, who retired in 2018. Like Coleman, Shedd is an alum of Northwestern, completing her MBA while working full-time as a staff member. She first joined Northwestern as a business administrator and worked in positions in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Medill School of Journalism and Office of the Provost while participating on the boards of several Evanston non-profit organizations.

Shedd retired from her position as associate provost after serving at the University with distinction for 41 years, but she continues to take classes at Northwestern and serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern.

“The fact that this is an award intended to recognize staff achievement meant a great deal to me, and, I hope, to others, as staff contributions to the success of the University are sometimes less visibly acknowledged,” Shedd said.

The award is meant to honor staff members with at least five years of service to the University, who have a record of sustained high performance, have made outstanding contributions to Northwestern, have demonstrated transformative leadership and exemplify the University’s values, among other criteria.