Wittenberg marked a leap in its history this leap day with the announcement of its first female president, Laurie M. Joyner.
Admittedly to Joyner, it feels great being announced as Wittenberg’s first female president.
“Whenever you have someone from an underrepresented group in a leadership position, it’s helpful because it raises more awareness of diversity issues,” said Joyner.
Chair of the English Department Cynthia Richards agrees with Joyner’s sentiments. “The idea of having a model of what is possible is so extraordinary,” said Richards, “It allows for new dreams and new possibilities.”
Richards served as one of four faculty representatives for the presidential search committee. Unlike the previous presidential search, an open faculty forum was conducted.
Interim Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science Heather Wright attended the forum and was very impressed by Joyner.
“Engaging with Dr. Joyner while she works will allow all of us on campus to see the role of President anew,” said Wright, “As a live possibility for women.”
For Joyner however, her focus is not on breaking gender norms but rather how she will best serve Wittenberg as it overcomes challenges while also encountering new opportunities.
Joyner comes from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida where she held the positions of Dean of College and Vice President for Planning. She also served as Provost and in this capacity she helped to initiate a campus-wide student success and retention initiative.
Joining her in the move to Springfield is her husband Jay and their three sons; Jay, Alexander, and Christopher, ages 13, nine, and eight respectively.
Joyner is very passionate about athletics and would often attend the athletic events at Rollins with her family.
For Joyner, her dream vacation would consist of reading. Recently she’s been reading as much as she can about Wittenberg, including former Wittenberg president William A. Kinnison’s book, “Wittenberg: An American College,” along with “The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education” by Tom Christenson and also her third read-through of “Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney.
To Richards it was very obvious that Joyner had given much thought to Wittenberg’s mission. “I think for her it is a mission and not just a job.”
Liberal arts education is where Joyner’s professional passion lies. “It was through my undergraduate experience that I really discovered who I was as a human being,” said Joyner, “Where I was really able to think through my responsibilities to others and perhaps most importantly my responsibility to the larger community.”
As president, one of her goals is to understand people’s aspirations and passions and help them work together in order to develop themselves.
“Not (all students) become part of student government or part of Greek life, or part of athletics and it’s important to me that all Wittenberg students really feel like they’re a critical part of the community,” said Joyner, “I want students to be very comfortable coming to me directly.”
Senior Sociology major and Student Senate President Brittany Rubbico looks forward to Joyner’s approach toward student involvement.
“Her views towards strong student involvement and participation in campus issues are relevant and reassuring, especially from a student government stand point,” said Rubbico.
According to Joyner, “You will often hear me say, ‘Students are the reason I do this work.’ And I don’t just say it, I mean it.” Every initiative her administration engages in will ask what the impact on students will be since to her, it is the students who compose the core of all institutions of higher-learning.
(Casey O’Brien / email@example.com)