Karis Hill

Senior Coordinator for Leadership – Engagement, Leadership, and Service

Relator – Individualization – Developer – Connectedness – Achiever

Karis was the recipient of the 2020-2021 Staff Award for Commitment to an Inclusive Community. Karis’s nominators had the following to say:

Karis Hill is the Senior Coordinator for Leadership in Engagement, Leadership, and Service. In the seven months that Karis has worked at UGA, she has displayed a commitment to diversity and inclusion, particularly in consideration of access, ability, and identity in leadership learning.

With an approach of socially just leadership education, Karis’s ultimate goal is that all students will able to not only identify themselves as leaders but also see the connection between leadership and how they can integrate these skills into their communities beyond the University of Georgia.

In a newly established department and amid the challenges posed by the pandemic, Karis has found opportunities for socially just leadership education through the development of new curriculum and intentional facilitation of leadership programs. Karis’s contributions toward socially just leadership education includes:

  • Karis played a significant role in researching leadership theories and frameworks and assisted in facilitating aspects of the collaborative working group that influenced the Leadership & Collaboration Essential Skill to include the themes of self-awareness, collaborative action, and empowerment of others.
  • Karis works to create leadership programs that are accessible to all students. Karis is mindful about ensuring videos are captioned, that there are virtual alternatives to programs, and that there are minimal barriers (applications, fees, etc.) to engage in leadership development.
  • Karis utilizes examples and resources that expand representation beyond typical archetypes of leadership, resulting in affirming student experiences and identities. I witnessed this first-hand during a Leadership Summit when I noticed a student visibly lite up watching a video of a spoken-word artist discussing the various ways to “speak English” as an example of intersectionality. This student couldn’t wait to talk about her own experience of having Jamaican parents and growing up knowing two cultures, which sparked a deeper dialogue around social identities and leadership.
  • Karis served as lead facilitator for the fall cohort of Leadership UGA emerging leaders. With two Destination Dawgs participants in the program, Karis was intentional about communicating with the professionalstaff member and student mentors to ensure our Destination Dawgs participants could engage fully and authentically by sharing resources and materials ahead of time."

Marina Martinez, a fourth-year student in the Destination Dawgs program, shared the following about her experience in the Leadership UGA program:

The Emerging Leaders Program helped me to realize that not only can I do anything I put my mind to, but that I can be a leader in it as well. Karis and the program taught me how to share my story and my background. That helped me realize that I had always been a leader, and it grew my confidence in my ability to lead. Karis helped me to become more open-minded as a leader. She taught me how to use my strengths in a leadership position and to advocate for myself and others.

Additionally, Alexis Szelwach, Transition Coordinator for Destination Dawgs, had the following to say about working with Karis:

Karis truly went above and beyond as a partner for our program Destination Dawgs. She made our students feel included, supported, and appreciated in the Emerging Leaders Program. Her passion and dedication to full inclusion not only supported the mission of our program but helped to impact Leadership at UGA. Karis was a leader to our students, but also was a mentor, and support role at all times. She is in an incredible partner to this program, and has become an advocate for our students, and their leadership journey at UGA.

Karis leads with intention and passion for creating inclusive spaces that enable student to feel affirmed and valued for their lived experiences. As her supervisor it is encouraging to see that her work is appreciated by students and colleagues. In a short time, Karis has set an example and precedent toward diversity and inclusion in all of the initiatives she has played a role in. Karis is an asset to the Division of Student Affairs and I am both proud to work alongside her and excited to see her work continue to create more inclusive spaces for University of Georgia student leaders.

Are you from Georgia? If not, where are you from? (i.e., where do you call “home”?)

While I was born in Georgia, I consider the Mississippi Gulf Coast home. I am from a small town named Long Beach that is about an hour outside of New Orleans.

How long have you worked at UGA?

I have worked at UGA for about a year and a half and started in August of 2020.

What’s your favorite UGA tradition?

I can’t say that I have a favorite UGA tradition. Beginning my experience at UGA during the pandemic made for a really strange year, and I feel like I am just now learning what UGA is all about. If I had to pick a favorite tradition, or event, working Film on the 50 this year was definitely a highlight of my time at UGA.

What does a “day in the life” look like for you at work?

No day is the same for me at work! Getting to serve as Interim Assistant Director of Student Activities has allowed me to begin advising University Union which has been a blast! Some days I get to plan events and watch a ferris wheel pull onto campus, and other days I get to talk to students about leadership development. No day is dull, that’s for sure!

What are three things you love most about your job?

When I think about what I love the most about my job, it’s the people. Having amazing students is one thing, but I also get to work with such a fun group of women in the ELS. Some other things I love about my job are the opportunity to serve on scholarship committees and overseeing the Outstanding Senior Leader process. Nothing is better than hearing stories of students accomplishing greatness both on and off campus!

Who do you look up to/ admire?

I have many mentors in my life who I look up to, but I truly admire Michelle Obama.

What are your hobbies or favorite things to do for fun?

My favorite thing to do for fun is go to Lake Herrick with my dog, Delaney. Much of my free time involves spending time with her!

What might be something that you would like other staff to know about your job?

One thing that staff could know about my job is that I love to find opportunities to embed leadership into the work you are already doing. I have a particular passion when it comes to helping students identify ways to talk about their leadership experiences in a professional setting.

What might be some ways that staff could collaborate or partner with you?

We are always looking for campus partners to facilitate a session of Nuggets of Knowledge, our monthly lunch-and-learn series.

Anything you would like to share that you would like other staff to know about you?


What advice would you have for new staff joining UGA Student Affairs?

My biggest piece of advice for new staff is to create opportunities to get to know other people in the division. Everyone I have met is more than willing to set up informational calls to help you get acclimated to campus.

What is your favorite spot on campus or in Athens?

Cali & Tito’s on Lumpkin or Lake Herrick.

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