Published: April 15, 2021

Katherine Erwin, who has led hallmark employee initiatives since 2016 as a member of the chancellor’s cabinet, will retire effective June 30 after 27 years of service to CU Boulder. 

A University of Colorado Law School graduate, Erwin has served in capacities on campus ranging from library instructor to legal counsel, Title IX Officer and senior associate vice chancellor and chief human resources officer. 

Katherine Erwin

The work she and her HR colleagues have engaged in to support the university’s employees and its academic and research missions is a point of pride for Erwin. 

“It has been an honor to serve on this beautiful campus and to work with so many wonderful colleagues throughout the years. It has been exciting to see how the collaboration between the academic and the administrative leadership has grown over the past year. I feel fortunate to have worked with such an outstanding leadership team over the years and especially this past year as we successfully took on the challenge of COVID-19,” Erwin said. 

“I am proud of the organization HR has become—a community genuinely committed to a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone at CU Boulder. It is hard to step away from this campus and the friends and colleagues I have cherished all these years. This campus has shaped who I am in significant and meaningful ways and my gratitude runs deep. It is now time for me to focus on family, travel, community service and the great outdoors,” she said. 

Among other achievements, Erwin and her staff established an HR Service Center; centralized the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); created a dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion unit with funding from the chancellor; established a compensation program to comply with the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act; promoted performance planning through values-based competencies and Cornerstone; centralized the employee onboarding program; administered a Faculty and Staff Engagement Survey; and supported faculty and executive-level recruitment. 

A search for Erwin’s successor will begin immediately, and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke expects to announce the next chief human resources officer sometime this summer or early fall. Starting July 1, Merna Jacobsen, associate vice chancellor and deputy chief human resources officer, will serve as interim chief human resources officer. 

In acknowledging Erwin’s many contributions over the course of her CU career, O’Rourke noted that she had established programs and initiatives that will continue to support employees for years to come and initiated others that will lay the groundwork for the future. 

“I’m thankful that we’ve had Katherine serving as a member of our senior leadership team. During her tenure, CU Boulder’s HR team has evolved to meet the needs of a changing campus and a changing society. CU Boulder must be a place that recruits, supports, and retains a diverse and engaged workforce, and Katherine has focused her career on helping us become a better campus,” O’Rourke said. 

O’Rourke added, “Our work will continue, and we will continue to learn how to better serve our employees as we move forward, but I hope that all of you will join me in thanking Katherine for her service to our community and for enabling us to build on her achievements. Katherine is a kind and compassionate leader whom I learned from every day.” 

Erwin began her CU Boulder career in 1991 as a Norlin Library instructor. In 1999, she graduated from the CU Law School and served as a legal associate in the Office of University Counsel until 2003. Later, she became an employee relations specialist and investigator and then director of the former Office of Discrimination and Harassment and the Office of Labor Relations, a precursor to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). 

In 2015, Erwin was named deputy chief human resources officer and was selected for the  chief human resources officer role in 2016. In addition to her Juris Doctorate degree from CU Boulder, Erwin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Science degree in library science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.