Chad Coleman’s office is decked out. Star Wars and Game of Thrones Funko Pops. Dozens of stacked up Apple product boxes, along with a Steve Jobs bobble head and biography. A palm tree. A Jimmy-Buffett-themed shelf. Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Reds merchandise.“I have all this stuff here,” he said, “a lot of it for conversational pieces. That’s one of my mottos is [to] surround yourself with things that you like, especially in areas you spend a lot of time in.”
Coleman, coming up on his 21st year at Goshen College, has quite a bit to talk about. He started out as resident director in August 2002.
He has also served as group housing coordinator, associate athletic director, director of campus safety, interim associate dean and residence life director. At the moment, he splits his time between athletics and campus safety, with intramurals added on top.
Since he’s been here for so long, Coleman knows the ins and outs of GC’s institutional philosophy and practices better than almost anyone else. As a result, people reach out to him quite a bit.
“I do get a lot of walk-ins during the day,” he said, “so sometimes it’s hard to get work done because people know me. I’ve become what I call the 411 of campus because I’ve been here. I’ve absorbed what they call institutional knowledge.”
The invisible job of answering institutional questions along with all of his other responsibilities means that efficiency is key for Coleman. In pursuit of this efficiency, he makes an effort to automate as many processes as possible with technology.
“We don’t call him ‘iChad’ for nothing,” Adela Hufford, director of orientation, transition and retention, said.
She has known of him since they went to Northridge High School together, 17 minutes away from GC. “He brings a lot of good processes to the table, and he’s automated a lot of things.”
The nickname iChad was coined by students, as Coleman is known around campus for his Apple product enthusiasm. He has personally used Apple products for years and leases them out to students.
The efficiency and interconnectedness of Apple products serves as a model for how he wants to do his job.
“Steve Jobs, you know, watching the original iPhone keynote,” Coleman said. “It gives me chills, how that was introduced. It was just such a master class in introducing a product. The whole bit that he used to say about the crossroads between liberal arts and technology … that has overlapped to me a little bit, even in higher ed. Probably why I get asked to do a lot of things here is because I often find ways to simplify it using technology.”
In his time at GC, Coleman has taken on some roles that have led to natural tension with students and faculty. As director of campus safety, he deals with parking tickets.
“Students get upset when they get a ticket,” Coleman said. “Faculty get upset when we’re not giving tickets because they’ll pull into a faculty parking space and then they’ll see three student permits there and they’re like, ‘where is campus safety?’ There’s no love in that work.”
Coleman doesn’t mind a thankless job.
“You have a job to do,” he said, “and everything you do within that job, none of it is personal. You’re just doing the best job you can do, what you’re asked to do, what your job description is. That involves sometimes having to crack some eggs. As I like to say, you can’t make an omelette without cracking some eggs. If you try to please everybody, you please no one.”
When dealing with parking tickets or administering discipline as he did earlier in his career, he emphasizes separating the job from the actual people he interacts with.
“I used to handle all the conduct stuff — I used to be the bad guy. I have literally had somebody go through there and they were like, ‘Hey, that wasn’t that bad.’ I don’t take any of this personally, so I walk out of here and I see you 10 days from now on the sidewalk, you know, whatever. I’ll shoot the breeze with you — I don’t care, you know, you made a mistake. Hopefully you [have] moved on. That is [an] important part of the conduct stuff. It’s a job I had to do,” Coleman said.
Some of his tasks provide more opportunities for creativity. When Coleman was initially asked to take on intramurals, he jumped at the chance, saying he had “ideas.” He, along with Val Hershberger, have worked to introduce new sports and find time for them around athletic events.
Katie Sauder, a sophomore nursing major who has worked with him for about a year in intramurals, spoke to his passion. “I feel like he gets really invested in the stuff that he does,” she said. “If he finds something that he likes, he’ll get invested with it. And he’s done a really good job with the intramurals to try to give students what they want.”
Whether it’s intramural sports, Apple technology, campus safety or Star Wars, Coleman finds room for passion in his busy life.
“I loved college,” he said. “So working in it feels like an extension of that — being able to live vicariously through the students here. The shared mission has kept me going along. I’ve had good supervisors, caring supervisors. I’ve felt like I’ve been allowed to do this job the way I want to do it.”