KOKOMO, Ind. — In nearly 30 years at Indiana University Kokomo, Gerry Stroman has seen many changes, and a great deal of growth.
She is proud of increased enrollment of traditional age, international, and minority students, and growth in campus facilities and advising opportunities. She also is pleased by the increased diversity on campus, remembering that she was one of a very few African American faculty or administrators when she arrived, in March 1986.
A multicultural campus provides a rich learning experience for the entire community, Stroman said.
"We do our students a disservice if we have a climate that is not diverse,” she said. “The world is not monocultural. When we send students out into the workforce, they have to know how to see different perspectives, respect different cultures, and be civil with one another, even when they don’t share the same beliefs and opinions. It’s a matter of respect and acceptance.”
She’s played a part on that growth in her many roles on campus, starting as director of the University Division, and later serving as assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs. When Susan Sciame-Giesecke became interim chancellor, and then chancellor, she appointed Stroman as her chief of staff, to assist with all areas of operation, provide advice, and oversee policy and procedures. She also is the campus’ Affirmative Action officer.
"If you know the leadership team’s visions and expectations for the campus, then this type of position is a great fit,” she said. “If you can multitask, and work with anyone, that’s the only way you can succeed. You want to make decisions that serve the best interests of the campus community.”
Her guiding principles are considering what will have the best outcome for students, faculty, or staff, while recognizing policy and procedures for the campus, following the mission for the IU system, and the campus strategic plan, and creating a caring culture.
"Everything we do is about student success, and providing them the best education you can,” she said, adding that Commencement is the reward for their hard work.
"Seeing them walk across the stage year after year, and knowing you’ve had a part in their success, is fulfilling. I love Commencement. The students are so happy, and we’re sending them out into the world to make a difference.”
When she arrived, the campus consisted of the Main Building and the East Building. It has grown, not only physically, but also in enrollment, program offerings, and diversity — which gives her great pride. She noted that when she arrived on campus, there were few African American faculty or administrators.
"As I look around the campus now. I can see we have diversity in our faculty, staff, and students,” she said. “That is a continuous work. It is part of student success.”
Stroman also takes pride in her many years of work in academic advising, including creation of a central advising center, the Office of Student Success and Advising.
"Advisors touch on every aspect of the experience, from recruitment, admissions, enrollment, planning a path from the first class to graduation, and scheduling,” she said. “Advisors play an important role helping students successfully navigate from orientation to Commencement.”
Stroman grew up in North Carolina, the youngest of 12 children, with parents who emphasized the importance of education.
"In our household, it was always about where you were going to college, not if you were going,” she said. “They valued education, but neither of my parents had a college degree. They pushed us to get educated so we could live a better life.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Winston-Salem University, in 1974, and taught in the Atlanta Public Schools for two years.
"I always grew up thinking teaching was what I wanted to do,” she said. “After two years. I decided that was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I respect elementary teachers tremendously after serving in that role.”
Her oldest brother was at Michigan State University, and convinced her to enroll there to earn a degree in counseling. She finished that degree in 1977.
After graduating, she married Willie Stroman, who she had known from an early age, but did not connect with until her undergraduate years in college.
"Our mothers were best friends, but we didn’t connect until later,” she said, noting that he was serving in the military while she was in college. They began dating in 1974, and married in 1978.
She had never been to Indiana before Willie interviewed for a job with what is now Delphi Automotive. She had been director of counseling at Fayetteville State University, before they moved to Kokomo in 1981. There weren’t any higher education jobs open at the time, so she worked in a training program for people who had lost their jobs.
Stroman also is an active volunteer with her church and with the Kokomo chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which she helped charter.
Willie retired from Delphi after 30 years of service, and then served as executive director of the Minority Health Coalition, until retiring in January 2016.
They enjoy spending time with their daughter, Amber, and grandchildren, Jaylen, 11; and Amara, 7.
"I want them to grow up in a world that is accepting,” she said. “People fought for rights for us all. It’s up to us to provide a better place, and help them understand what a multicultural system looks like, and what to expect in the world.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.