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Karen Colley Biography

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Karen Colley, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics and former dean of the Graduate College, was appointed provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs July 21, 2023.

As provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, Colley is responsible for the planning, execution and assessment of UIC’s academic programs across its 16 colleges and the university Library. In alignment with the university’s mission, she supports the broadest access to the highest levels of educational, research and clinical excellence and is committed to ensuring that all UIC students are prepared to pursue their chosen paths in life, and to be productive and contributing members of their communities.

Prior to her appointment as provost, Colley also served as acting provost twice (May-August 2021 and June 2022-June 2023), interim dean of the University Library (August 2020-February 2021), and dean of the Graduate College (2012-2022). During her tenure as dean, Colley focused her efforts on supporting historically underserved/underrepresented students during their transition into graduate school, as well as their success in graduate school and beyond through various programs under her guidance. Colley also made it a priority to build graduate student professional development programming and support services in collaboration with various offices across the university and to provide graduate students with opportunities to explore careers outside the academy.

Before assuming the role of provost, Colley led the effort for UIC to become a member of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning national network and previously served as the institutional leader for CIRTL@UIC. In this role, she worked with colleagues in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence to provide pathways for graduate students to become proficient in and gain credentials in evidence-based, inclusive and collaborative teaching and learning practices.

Earlier in her career, Colley began her focus on graduate student education by co-founding and co-leading the Graduate Education in Medical Sciences program in the College of Medicine, the first umbrella graduate program at UIC. She also served as the associate director of the Medical Scientist Training Program and as the associate dean for graduate research and education in the College of Medicine. Given the growing recognition of her administrative skills, Colley was appointed interim dean for research and the senior associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Medicine prior to moving into the position of dean of the Graduate College.

Colley was NIH funded for over 25 years for her research in glycobiology and served her scientific field as president of the Society for Glycobiology, chair of the Glycobiology Gordon Research Conference, member and chair of NIH study sections, and as a manuscript reviewer and editorial board member for several journals. Currently, Colley is the editor-in-chief for the journal Glycobiology.

Colley received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Duke University and her PhD in biochemistry from Washington University, St. Louis. She continued her training in cell and molecular biology as an NIH funded postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, prior to joining UIC in 1991 as an assistant professor in the biochemistry department (now biochemistry and molecular genetics). She attained the rank of full professor in 2002.

Colley was honored with the American Heart Association Established Investigator Award, was a member of the Emerging Leadership in Academic Medicine Program, and has been recognized as a University of Illinois University Scholar, the highest designation for a faculty member within the University of Illinois System.