In 2013, Warrick L. Carter, PhD, will retire as president of Columbia College Chicago after serving 13 years in the role. Since coming to Columbia in 2000, Carter has led the transformation of the college from a locally known commuter school into the largest private arts and media college in the country. During his tenure, enrollment increased by almost 25 percent to more than 11,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The size of the 2012 graduating class of more than 2,000 students almost doubled the number of graduates who walked the stage a decade ago.

During the 2000s, the college purchased and refurbished several buildings for the growing student population and partnered with local universities to construct the University Center of Chicago, dubbed the “Superdorm,” in 2004. “We were still a commuter institution when I arrived,” Carter says. “When we began to get a sense that applications were coming from around the globe, we knew we had to be more residential.”

Providing additional student housing was an important step in making the college a destination school. “The year before we opened the University Center, we were housing 500 students,” Carter says. “We’re now close to 3,000 beds of students who stay in our facilities. That really helped to change the mixture of our students. Our demographics are completely different now in terms of where our students come from—nationally and internationally.”


Warrick L. Carter

I feel good about where we are.
I couldn't have
done it alone.


Carter oversaw the development of Columbia's first newly constructed building, the state-of-the-art Media Production Center, which opened for classes in 2010. Under Carter’s leadership, the urban campus footprint doubled to 2.5 million square feet of occupied classroom, office, exhibit, performance, and residence hall spaces, making the college the largest single presence in the downtown South Loop area.

The president led the creation of several new student-centered programs and initiatives, including Manifest, the annual urban arts festival for graduating students, and ShopColumbia, the art store where students have a commercial venue to showcase and sell their work. Additionally, Carter established new funding programs to address the financial needs of students, including Scholarship Columbia, and helmed the college’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“I feel good about where we are,” Carter says. “I couldn’t have done it alone. Kudos go to all of the VPs and deans, department chairs and staff directors, and associate VPs—everybody in the college community who understood this vision and helped us to realize it.”