Scripps Students concerned over new LASPA Center

Scripps College recently received a $5 million donation, a keystone gift from alumnus Eileen Schock Laspa ’67 and Jude Laspa, Harvey Mudd College ’65, for a women’s leadership center to be named in honor of the former.

The LASPA Center for Leadership at Scripps College will focus on 21st-century leadership, including scholarship and public service. The center has a focused mission of preparing enriched, informed, intellectual and curious female leaders of tomorrow by increasing interactions with local organizations and working with community leaders.

Having led adventurous lives, including moving 16 times, the Lapsas carry a very global perspective, which they would like the center to reflect. Yet, the family does not intend to hold any administrative position or have any involvement in the running of the center. According to Scripps President Lori Bettison-Varga, during an April 15 LAPSA information session, “They are not going to control it; they just gave us a gift to help us to steward the project.” She went on to say that they will not be part of the search committee for the director either, nor will have any special vetting of the candidate.

Although much of the administration is excited about bringing new opportunities to campus, Scripps students are unsure of the benefits of such a center and have been vocal about their concerns. Chief among their worries is the thought that the institute could become like CMC’s Kravis Leadership Institute and not adequately embody all Scripps students, but only certain majors.

Varga and faculty members Piya Chatterjee, Dorothy Cruickshank Backstrand Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Mark Golub, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations, held a panel discussion April 15 to get feedback on the program and help answer student questions. President Varga started off the hour-long discussion by giving students a broad overview of the project and then opened the floor up for a dialogue.

The leadership center will enhance the current curriculum with the hope that it may become the hub and heart beat outside the classroom of engaging students. The goals for the center are ambitious and include research grants, among other opportunities for students. Similar to CMC’s SOURCE program, the LASPA center hopes to allow students to work directly with non-profits and local companies throughout the year, allowing students to problem solve “real world” problems for organizations outside of the consortium. The center also hopes to have visiting scholars and host practical skill-based workshops, as well as have student-run conferences.

President Varga notably stressed that the center is “not going to be Kravis Center at Scripps.” Rather, the programming is supposed to affect all students in their four years at the college, with series such as, “Money Wise Woman Program,” how best to negotiate your paycheck, and similar practical skills necessary for life after college.

The center will have directives unique to Scripps culture, which will interest all students with room for different views of leadership. It will have characteristics that are necessary for anyone to successfully lead their own lives and work with others. The benefits from the center do not end when one graduates, but will be available even beyond through the LASPA center’s virtual website, which will include alumni relations support.

Now that the project has received the initial gift, the school has put together a search committee for the center’s inaugural director. The college wants to make sure that students help out in the search of the right person as well. To accommodate them, there will be public, on-campus interviews of candidates beginning in the fall of 2013. The physical location of the center will be in the Drake wing of Dennison Library, which has been closed for three years. Although it will be housed in a very historic building, the center plans to be very contemporary and high tech inside, with sliding walls and state of the art equipment.

Overall, the center will bring a much-needed resource to the Scripps community. The college has lacked a place to provide students with necessary post-graduate tools, and the addition of the center will be a welcome sight. Historically, Scripps has succeeded in preparing its students to enter the workforce academically, but alumni have expressed a lack of technical work place preparation. Hopefully, the LASPA Center will be able to help correct these past grievances.

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