Meet this week’s Centennial Stars

Two staffers demonstrate Rice’s ‘commitment to excellence’

To celebrate the Rice Centennial, this year the university will honor 100 staff members who represent the best of Rice culture. Each week, two Centennial Stars will be recognized for their contributions to excellence, and we’ll introduce them in Rice News.

This week’s Centennial Stars make Rice better for students and for their colleagues, and they’re two of the university’s best representatives: Linda Cooper, division administrator in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates, and Carlyn Chatfield, manager of IT Technical Communications.

Cooper came to Rice in 1995 to be assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs. In 2002 she was promoted to division administrator, a position she still holds, though the division is now headed by the dean of undergraduates.

Linda Cooper

Linda Cooper

“Her institutional knowledge, diplomacy and leadership have made a tremendous difference in the lives of hundreds of employees and students and in the effectiveness of the university,” said the nomination letter for Cooper.

The Office of the Dean of Undergraduates, the letter said, “is at the center of all events surrounding the departure from campus or return to campus of students who have been in personal, medical, academic or family distress.”

Those circumstances require “the utmost in compassion, tact, diplomacy, confidentiality and attention to detail,” the letter said. “Linda is the cool and caring presence of the university for these students and parents, responding to their calls, questions, complaints, anger or fear.”

This isn’t Cooper’s only responsibility, however. It’s merely an addition to the division administration duties – from budgets and personnel appointments to correspondence and more – that she handles “with superb professionalism and calm,” the letter said. “Linda is an integral and visible part of Rice’s commitment to excellence for our undergraduates.”

Chatfield came to Rice in 1999 as a temporary staff assistant in financial aid. Her position was soon made permanent, and in 2000 she was promoted to assistant director for systems analysis and funds management, also in the financial aid office.

Carlyn Chatfield

Carlyn Chatfield

In 2001, Chatfield moved to the Enrollment Management Operations Center to be a business analyst. A couple of years later, she transferred to Information Technology as a Web coordinator. And in 2006, Chatfield was promoted to her current position as manager for IT technical communications.

Though her colleagues call her the “voice of IT” because she makes most of the department’s announcements to the university, Chatfield is also the “ears of IT,” said the letter that nominated her.

“Carlyn has hosted numerous formal and informal events where members of the Rice community can come discuss their IT issues and goals,” the letter said. She also attends a variety of campus meetings and works to make IT “more open and accessible to the Rice community.” Just last fall, the letter said, Chatfield installed an IT Student Ambassador at each residential college to improve communication between IT and undergraduates.

Chatfield’s dedication to Rice goes far beyond her job, the nomination letter said. She’s been a Wiess College associate for several years and has more than once been named Outstanding Associate.

“With a cheerful spirit, she serves as a Beer Bike judge, picks up international students at the airport, encourages student employees, hosts freshman dinners and attends a variety of student events, such as plays and dance exhibitions,” the letter said.

As an associate, Chatfield has hosted study breaks and taught “Wiess Cooks!” classes to undergraduates. Because her daughter is a freshman at Wiess this year, Chatfield has temporarily scaled back her involvement with the college – but she has found other ways to give her time.  “Instead,” the letter said, “she began ‘coaching’ other IT staffers about how to prepare their high school students for college” – from SAT preparation to campus visits.

“The list of examples of how Carlyn contributes to making Rice a wonderful place is endless,” the letter said. “To summarize, Carlyn makes our community feel like a family.”

To nominate someone as a Centennial Star, go to For more information, contact Rebecca Millet at

To view previous Centennial Stars, visit

About Alyson Ward

Alyson Ward is a writer in Public Affairs at Rice University.