Settling In at Lawrence

by Tim Froberg

Laurie Carter wants Lawrence University graduates to enter the working world with more than just a paper diploma.

She expects them to be difference makers.

The New Jersey native is settling into her new position as the 17th president of the Appleton-based liberal arts college. 

Carter has great respect for the school’s faculty members and the academic programs. She sees no reason why Lawrence graduates can’t meet the highest standards of future employers…or become future employers.

“Our graduates will be leaving with a great education, but I would hope they’re also leaving with a passion for making a difference in society and for life-long learning — because that’s really what Lawrence engenders in its community,” Carter said.

Carter is the first African American president at Lawrence and the third woman to fill the position. She has an impressive background in higher education, including four years as president of Shippensburg University. Carter previously worked for 25 years in various leadership positions at the prestigious Juilliard School, and in key positions at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Eastern Kentucky University.

Carter didn’t need to be sold on Lawrence. The school has a national reputation for its Conservatory of Music and Carter was aware of Lawrence since her days at Juilliard. One of her top priorities is making Lawrence even more visible on the crowded collegiate landscape. 

“My top goals are going to come from conversations I’ve had and will have with the Lawrence community,” she said. “I’m hearing a real interest in building and strengthening the brand of Lawrence so more people know about it and get excited about it.” 

Another of Carter’s top objectives is strengthening Lawrence’s relationship with the city of Appleton. She did exceptional work in that area at Shippensburg, creating a downtown location for the school’s Center of Excellence which helped foster student entrepreneurship. She also worked diligently to improve diversity and inclusiveness and was named as one of 25 outstanding women in higher education by the publication “Diverse Issues in Higher Education.”

“I’ll use my tool kit in a way that supports who Lawrence is,” she said. “It’s important to really understand what’s important to Lawrence and the community and use my experience and background to benefit Lawrence. But we’re going to do it in a way that honors this university.”

Carter describes her leadership style as adaptive.

“I’m a values-based leader,” Carter said. “I lead with my values of integrity, honesty, kindness, and gratitude. I’ll work to make sure we’re providing these students with an opportunity to grow, stretch, and develop and then go out into the world and feel that their education has mattered to them.”

Carter received her bachelor’s degree (in communications) from Clarion University in Pennsylvania, her Master of Arts from William Paterson College in New Jersey, and her JD (Juris Doctor) from Rutgers University. She was a track and field athlete at Clarion and is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. Carter also has a teaching background and strong interest in the performing arts.

“What a liberal arts education does is develop the whole student,” Carter said. “As a former student-athlete, I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t use some of the knowledge and skills I learned on the field. That’s part of who I am.”

Carter began work at Lawrence in July. She and her husband, Gary Robinson, have been impressed with what they’ve experienced in the Fox Cities. 

“We’re coming from a rural community in Pennsylvania, so Appleton is a thriving metropolis,” said Carter with a laugh. “My husband and I have enjoyed getting to know the community and enjoying the different things the Fox Cities has to offer. 

“The restaurants — I can’t tell you how excited we’ve been to enjoy really good food in wonderful settings. We’re just really excited to be here.”