Presidential finalist Laurie Carter’s town hall was held over WebEx on Feb. 10. The event was hosted by Chief of Staff and Board Liaison Brittany Williams-Goldstein, with Alejandro Ramos moderating student questions and Rikki Abzug moderating faculty questions.
President Laurie Carter of Shippensburg University grew up in Bergen County. At the start of her presentation, Carter mentions her history in the county as a track and field athlete. This is where she claims “the concept of winning” started for her, which is where she pitched students her first approach.
“I believe that if the students are the focus of the university, the university will thrive,” Carter said. “It is working together that helps us accomplish our goals.”
Besides being the current president of Shippensburg University, Carter’s previous experience includes being the founding executive director of jazz studies at The Juilliard School, the vice president for arts education at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and executive vice president and university counsel at Eastern Kentucky University.
While at Shippensburg, Carter helped establish the bus system that offered students transportation to and from Philadelphia. This heightened the amount of internship and research opportunities that students were able to pursue while being on campus, and Carter wants to implement a similar system at Ramapo and utilize our proximity to New York City.
“I know that Ramapo has an engaging internship program, but it can be bigger, it can be stronger, it should,” she said.
Carter also wants to encourage student engagement on campus, considering both professor research opportunities and emphasizing our diverse range of clubs and organizations.
When asked by faculty what Carter plans to do as she may start leading during a pandemic, she notes that while the digital era may have caused colleges to recognize the need for change in the standard curriculum, she always believed that the room for improvement was there.
“COVID has changed our world, but even before that, higher education was experiencing the need to change,” she said.
Jessica Sanchez, the secretary of diversity and inclusion for the Student Government Association, asked Carter how she plans to address the issues pertaining to racial and ethnic minorities on campus. Carter connects her own experiences as a Black woman to answer this question.
“I was a student on a public university campus; there were challenges then, and there were challenges now,” she said. “Our students need to know that they are smart and as capable as anyone else, and color, gender or sexual orientation will not define how they live or will succeed in the world.”
Carter then goes on to explain concrete plans to “deploy a restorative justice strategy to engage liberal thinking around inclusion issues.”
“We're going to train, educate, and we’re going to allow students into spaces that they haven’t been truly invited to before,” she said. “I am not going to be the person that makes all of these changes; we have to do it together.”
Sustainability was a popular topic in questions raised by students during the Q&A. Carter was “surprised” to learn that there isn't an Office of Sustainability on campus, as she considers this a “standard.” She is willing to explore other sustainable measures like adjusting the curriculum and developing a sustainability center during her time as president.
Another faculty question was why Carter plans to leave her current role as president of Shippensburg. Her answer sums up her passion for Ramapo’s position.
“This was a difficult decision for me because I love the place, and we as a community are doing great work, but Bergen County is my home,” she said.