Enhancing Student Living and Learning

Justin Carroll, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Students and Dean of Students

By Terri McClain

Justin Carroll is extraordinarily plugged in to student life. During his 25 years with Washington University, Carroll's leadership and enthusiasm have helped shape the way thousands of students experience the University, and as a mentor he has built lasting personal relationships with many of them.

One of those former students is Rob Wild, associate director of residential life, who worked in Carroll's office as an undergraduate.

"He really takes the time to get to know the students, even those who are less involved and may be off the radar screen for much of the administration," says Wild. "That's how he gets to know what the students want and the general mood among the students."

Wild credits Carroll with talking him into graduate studies in higher education administration, which eventually brought him full-circle back to Washington University.

"I couldn't pass up the opportunity to come back and work for Justin," Wild says. "So now I'm here for my eighth year, and I've loved every minute of it."

As assistant vice chancellor for students and dean of students, Carroll wears many hats. Among the most visible of his varied responsibilities are athletics and residential life. During Carroll's tenure, particularly in the past decade, the student environment has seen numerous enhancements. He won't take credit for much, though, preferring to praise his colleagues throughout the University for their hard work.

"I'm just fortunate to be in a great place," Carroll says. "I've worked with really wonderful, engaging students all these years, and I've worked with great faculty and administrators who have shared my enthusiasm. It helps me."

"He's the most modest guy ever," says Wild. "He's been at the helm of the University's athletic program for about 15 years. He has a great staff, directed by John Schael, over there with great coaches, and he's been extremely involved with all in Athletics in building a first-rate student-athlete program and moving Washington University into the top ranks. In residential life he's been basically at the helm through the entire overhaul of the program, during which we've nearly doubled our student-housing capacity. I've learned so much working for him."

That overhaul involved transitioning to a residential college system, allowing more continuity in residential life beyond the freshman year, and better integrating the campus learning and living environments.

"Our redevelopment goals were not generated by problems or student dissatisfaction," Carroll says, "but by wanting to encourage more undergraduates to stay on or near campus longer, so as to establish a stronger sense of community and therefore a stronger sense of tradition."

Under Carroll's watch, the undergraduates have gained 12 new residence buildings on campus, all of which are equipped with classroom and study spaces the old residence halls lacked. Academic seminars and even classes are now held on the South 40. Every freshman floor has a faculty associate (nearly 40 total), and five faculty members (and their families) have apartments and offices in the residence houses, creating unprecedented interaction between students and faculty.

"In a complex university there are many players involved in the development and construction of new buildings, and Justin is such a great diplomat," says Wild. "And he's the one who says during meetings with senior administration: 'Let's see what students think.' He's the one always trying to infuse student input into the decision-making process."

Carroll says his goal has been to provide students safe, comfortable accommodations that encourage their sense of community and connection to the University and also contribute to their academic life. Over the years, he has continued to value and appreciate how time spent outside the class contributes to the learning that is taking place in the classroom.

"It's hard to imagine being where we are without [Justin's] leadership. ... He now leads one of our most critical areas of the students' experience, and he has transformed the residential area into an extremely valuable contributor to the institution's mission."
—Jim McLeod

"Justin has contributed across almost the entire spectrum of the student services areas," says Jim McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. "It's hard to imagine being where we are without his leadership over an extended period of time. He now leads one of our most critical areas of the students' experience, and he has transformed the residential area into an extremely valuable contributor to the institution's mission.

"What can't be quantified," McLeod continues, "is the extraordinary impact of his support, nurturing, and mentoring of many, many students over a quarter century. It's done with a quiet, steady, centered approach. He is dean of students. And in that role you often interact with students under difficult, even tragic, circumstances. Justin does this with style and informed by values both personal and institutional, which helps the students learn from these situations."

Mike Bevilacqua, a sophomore in Arts & Sciences, met Carroll through his grandfather. He says Carroll, who was instrumental in his coming to Washington University, is available and helpful when students need advice. "He listens, and he's involved in what's going on around campus."

Carroll's family life has been deeply entwined with the University. When he was hired in 1981, his eldest child was just 14 months old. His wife, Cindy King-Carroll, earned a degree from Washington University, as have two of his four children. They also frequently host students in their home.

"Justin has been a great role model for me," says Jill Stratton, assistant dean of students. "Even in his 25th year at the University, he's still full of energy and enthusiasm for making this a lively and dynamic community. His commitment to students and to their growth and success is evidenced by the alums who stay in touch with him. I see Justin going above and beyond to connect with each student. He and his family open up their hearts and home to students, which makes them feel part of a larger family."

"It's hard to think of Washington University without Justin's extraordinary leadership and contributions," McLeod says. "We have some wonderful challenges and opportunities ahead, and Justin is central to addressing those, no question about it. We're not done yet."

Terri McClain is a free-lance writer based in St. Charles, Missouri.