Alverno Dean Carole Chabries

Architect of Innovation

Carole Chabries had only been on the job for a matter of days before she was mingling with movers and shakers at a Milwaukee Business Journal event. As the founding dean of Alverno’s new School for Adult Learning and New Initiatives, she’s eager to leverage community partnerships.

“A big part of my job is to get to know Milwaukee’s community leaders and learn what Milwaukee needs to help people who live here succeed, and then figure out how Alverno can offer it,” she explains.

Building partnerships isn’t a new role for Chabries. She’s spent nearly two decades working in higher education in Ohio, Minnesota and Missouri. One of her favorite jobs was serving as executive director for Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities, a consortium of five liberal arts colleges. While at ACTC, she helped launch CityLabs, a program that put students from the partner colleges to work on projects for St. Paul, from designing retrofit LED light bulbs for street lamps to reclaiming rainwater from a city building.

It was at ACTC that Chabries met Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM, then the president of St. Catherine University. “I was eager to work with Sister Andrea again. When she started talking to me about Alverno and when I came to meet people here, I was struck by how truly distinctive Alverno is,” Chabries says. “You can feel it in the hallways, in the air, see it in people’s faces when they talk to you. People believe in the Alverno way, and I was really excited to be a part of that.”

The new school will oversee degree completion and online programs and help launch other new initiatives, including a physician assistant program and a health informatics program. New initiatives will still have their disciplinary home in one of Alverno’s other schools.

“The new school is unique in that it’s not home to disciplines; it’s home to innovation,” Chabries says. “But we’re not the only home to innovation. We’re here to accelerate the innovation that’s happening across the schools.”

To remain innovative, it’s important to get out of the “ivory tower” and into the community to find out what’s truly needed, Chabries says. It was a skill she honed early in her career at the Minnesota Humanities Center, where she networked with K-12 programs statewide.

“You need the on-the-ground group saying, ‘Here’s what we need to learn,’ and then people with the training and resources and excitement to teach that group,” she says. “We bring something to the table, and the community brings something to the table. Neither can do it alone.”

Chabries is also listening deeply to people on campus. “I’m still learning about all of the great ideas that came from faculty last year and which ones are ripe for us to act on,” she says. “We are already exploring digital badges as well as alternative methods of assessing employable qualities through a pilot with QA Commons.”

Alverno is one of 14 universities participating in the pilot project with the Quality Assurance Commons for Higher and Postsecondary Education, also known as QA Commons. The pilot focuses on developing a new quality assurance model based on the essential qualities that graduates need to succeed in the workplace — very much like Alverno’s 8 Abilities. “I believe Alverno’s abilities-based curriculum gives us a big head start with projects like the QA Commons, as we know our approach to the liberal arts and professional studies produces graduates who are in demand,” Chabries says. (Click here to listen to Chabries discuss the project on WUWM’s Lake Effect.)

Chabries also is pursuing research on how female presidents of universities are responding to the political climate since the 2016 election. “Alverno is a great place to be working if you’re researching women’s leadership, and my hope is to eventually be able to involve some students as well,” she says.

Meet Carole Chabries


“I grew up west of the Rockies, but have long considered St. Paul, Minn., my home.”


Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Washington; Master of Arts and Doctorate in English Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin

Favorite book(s)

“Hilary Mantel’s series on Thomas Cromwell. I read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at least once a year. I cannot wait for the third and final installment!”


Husband Shannon Smith; daughter Mairin, 11; and son Eamon, 9. “Don’t forget our dog, Ivy!”

Perfect day in Milwaukee

“Walking to Roast for a cup of coffee, hanging out at the lake, visiting Boswell’s. We absolutely love it here.”

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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