Chris Clarke poses for a photo in front of Sage Hall.
Chris Clarke joined Lawrence as dean of students in February. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Chris Clarke, Lawrence University’s new dean of students, feels right at home on a liberal arts campus.

“The seeds were planted long ago,” he said, referring to his undergraduate studies at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York, and his graduate school work at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York.

“I also worked for a time at a number of smaller liberal arts institutions—The Juilliard School, Manhattan, Wagner College,” Clarke said. “Really, there’s an affinity for that population and that kind of environment.”

Clarke, who began his new duties at Lawrence on Feb. 7, said he wants to be an advocate for students.

“I want to make sure that students know that I’m here for them, to help them get the best out of their experience here at Lawrence,” he said. “And I want Lawrence to know that I’m protecting our student body and our community and making proper decisions to make sure the welfare of all is being taken into consideration.”

Clarke comes to Lawrence after spending the past two years as the associate vice president of operations at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. His work there involved leadership in human resources, public safety, and campus facilities, overseeing the university’s COVID response, and for a time serving as interim dean of students.

It’s also a time when he worked with then-Shippensburg President Laurie Carter, who became president of Lawrence in July 2021.

“I think highly of her and her leadership style,” Clarke said. “I saw great things in my time working for her, so that was something that made this a very easy decision for me.”

Clarke, who holds a juris doctor degree from Pace University in White Plains, New York, has worked across multiple departments on college campuses over the past couple of decades, including being associate dean of students at SIT Study Abroad (World Learning) in Brattleboro, Vermont, director of residence life at Juilliard, and director of housing and assistant dean for campus life at Wagner. He also spent six years working for a realty group in New York City.

“I think I bring a wealth of experience from a variety of departments within student affairs, from recreation to residence life to risk management to international students to counseling,” he said.

That experience will be especially valuable, Clarke said, as he and his staff work with students who have lived through two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There will be an ongoing focus on the well-being of students,” he said.

Clarke’s first three years of work in higher education were at Ripon College, where he served as a hall director and director of intramural sports. The move to Lawrence marks his return to Wisconsin. He said he’ll be joined in Appleton by his partner, Karen, and their three children, ages 2, 7, and 9.