Second female president begins first year at SRU

Karen Riley takes over for William Behre in presidential office

Published by Annabelle Chipps, Date: September 11, 2023

Karen Riley began her first presidential term at Slippery Rock University (SRU) on July 1, 2023. She is the second female president in university history. 

She said has not felt any discrimination from male colleagues. “I do not think having a female [president] changes the university,” she said. 

Still, she acknowledged that she is priveleged to serve in such a role. 

“30% of presidents in higher education are women,” Riley said. She also claimed there is only one other female president in the PASSHE system. “I think it’s important for marginalized communities to be able to see themselves in this role.”

When speaking of Riley’s upcoming inauguration, a colleague asked if they could bring their family to the event because they wanted their daughter to witness a woman president. 

Riley is determined that students of all genders feel supported, not just women. “I’m about equity,” she said. “ Students are my priority. I care about them, their success, their thriving…there is not one person I met [here] that does not care about the students.”

“I don’t want to be a good female president. I want to be a good president, ” she said.

So far, Riley claims the year has been “going very, very well” and is “busy”. She has been achieving things such as streamlining approval processes and solidifying positions for interim cabinet workers. 

She has enjoyed working with various departments and visiting the Harrisville campus as well as engaging with students directly. Riley has a policy that she tries to eat lunch with students every Wednesday. 

“I hope if [students] have questions…or hear something,  [they] would come to me first,” Riley said. “I want what’s best for you.” 


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