Standing with students, leading with love

Karla Spurlock-Evans to retire

By Abe Loomis

Dean of Multicultural Affairs Karla Spurlock-Evans has been determined to bring progressive change to college campuses ever since she was an undergraduate at Barnard, occupying Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall during the student demonstrations of 1968.

And she has never lost that idealism. In an essay that she contributed to a recent book about those years, she wrote, “I gained a belief in the power of listening to others, of compromise, and of politics infused with love.”

Those principles have shaped a long, successful career—and her work at Trinity since her appointment as dean of multicultural affairs in 1999 through her retirement this spring.

“I’m inspired by working with students and watching them respond to the challenges before them,” says Spurlock-Evans, who also serves as senior diversity officer. “Watching how they both shape the environment and are shaped by it and how they prepare themselves to be of service and to be fulfilled.”

Karla Spurlock-Evans

Photo: Monica Jorge

For generations of Bantams, Spurlock-Evans has been a supporter, a guide, and an inspiration.

Josh Frank ’16, a former Fulbright English Teaching Assistant now preparing to pursue a master’s in education at Cambridge University, credits her with helping him find his own voice as a leader.

“Becoming successful at Trinity would have been significantly more difficult had it not been for Dean Evans,” he says.

Taniqua Huguley ’15, M’17, a Fulbright Scholar who interned at Trinity’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and later became a Bantam Network Trinsition Fellow, calls Spurlock-Evans “very understanding.” Most of all, Huguley says, “I think she’s been so effective because students see her on campus and in attendance at their events. She makes it her business to go out and talk to students and be involved in campus discussions.”

For Spurlock-Evans, whose career also has included administrative roles related to inclusion at Haverford College and Northwestern University, one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of her work has been serving as a kind of intermediary, balancing student demands with administrative imperatives.

“It has been my job to both stand with students and help institutions translate student demands into action,” she says. “And I have had to translate to students that the college does care about them, despite actions that often have to be taken for reasons that they are not able to see or understand.”

Setting the tone for critical conversations has been one of Spurlock-Evans’s gifts to her colleagues as well.

“Anytime Karla is part of a meeting, she creates an environment of collaboration,” says Joe DiChristina, dean of campus life and vice president for student affairs. “That’s very important because it leads to the kinds of discussions that focus on how we can help students.”

According to Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, “Karla has served as an incredible resource and mentor to scores of students during her almost two decades at Trinity, providing both nurturing and tough love during a critical time in their lives. Some of the most moving moments I have observed during my time working with Karla have been seeing how alumni react when they return to campus and see Karla for the first time since their graduation. It is clear that Karla has made a lasting impact on who they are and where they have gone in life.”

What comes next in Spurlock-Evans’s own life?

For now, she plans to focus on family and to do some writing—and she has jokingly warned students that they may actually see more of her. The Trinity community is her community, and she intends for it to stay that way.

“If someone asks me what I want,” she says, “I’m going to say, ‘A Trinity library card.’ ”