It’s time to get to know Laurie A. Carter just a little better.
Carter will join Lawrence University as its 17th president on July 1. Currently the president of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, her professional career also includes 25 years in key leadership positions at The Juilliard School in New York City and four years at Eastern Kentucky University. She has spoken in media interviews about her excitement in coming to Wisconsin—yes to cheese curds and ice fishing—and becoming part of the Lawrence and Appleton communities.
“Lawrentians are the light because of the commitment that faculty and staff make to ensure that students have every opportunity to lead a life of success,” Carter said.
Coming May 4: A Conversation with Presidents Laurie A. Carter & Mark Burstein. Lawrence’s 16th and 17th presidents recently had the opportunity to spend time together on campus. They discussed everything from their hopes for Lawrence, their respect for presidential history and their personal and professional journeys, to Meatless Mondays. They also answered questions from Lawrentians. Watch this engaging conversation between Presidents Carter and Burstein at 6:30 p.m. May 4 at go.lawrence.edu/welcome17.
In the meantime, we’ve compiled a list of 17 things to know about No. 17 as we await her arrival.
Carter got her start working in higher education via student life. She served as a residence hall director at William Paterson College and then as director of residence life at Fairleigh Dickinson College. “I fell into higher education by accident,” she told The Lawrentian. “I worked as a residence hall director to help fund my master’s degree. I never left the profession after that.”
Her first position at Juilliard, beginning in 1988, was as director of student affairs. Among other things, she helped alter the NYC skyline—well, sort of—as she oversaw construction of the school’s first dormitory.
She is a lawyer. Carter was already working at Juilliard when she began taking classes at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, N.J. When she graduated with her JD in 1993, Juilliard asked her to stay at the school to establish an in-house legal department. She became the school’s first chief legal officer. ABA Journal, the flagship publication of the American Bar Association, recently featured Carter in a story about why lawyers bring strong skills to the role of a college president. “Having a good view of higher education and the role of the president really let me know I was prepared to take on the role and to be effective in it,” she told the magazine.
Her work at Juilliard went well beyond legal matters. She co-created the jazz program at Juilliard and served as executive director of the Jazz Studies Department. “Creating that program from scratch was really one of the highlights of my career,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio. In all, she held five different leadership positions during 25 years at the school.
No, Carter doesn’t play a musical instrument, but she taught on the faculty while at Juilliard, focused first on diversity issues and later on legal and business matters related to the arts. “I have a real passion for liberal arts and the skills that students gain through that experience, but I have a passion for the arts as well,” she told The Lawrentian.
She spent a year (2013-14) leading arts education at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, among the largest performing arts centers in the country, before returning to higher education with Eastern Kentucky.
She was both the first woman and first African American to serve as president of Shippensburg University. She will now be the first BIPOC president at Lawrence. “It’s very meaningful to me,” she told Madison365. “And I know that it’s meaningful to the community; I know it’s meaningful to the campus community as well.”
She initiated a program for first-generation college students at both Eastern Kentucky and Shippensburg and said she’s impressed with the Full Speed to Full Need initiative at Lawrence that is making the university more accessible for all. “This is a long-term commitment for the university,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Carter created an Anti-Racism Institute to foster racial understanding across the State of Pennsylvania while at Shippensburg and likewise wants to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion work beyond the borders of the Lawrence campus. “I look forward to spending time listening to folks with where they are and where they think Lawrence can go in this regard, as well as connecting with the broader Appleton community,” she told The Lawrentian.
She was named one of 25 outstanding women in higher education by the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education earlier this year.
As an undergrad, she was a standout track and field athlete at Clarion University, elected to the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018. Carter placed second at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships in the 100 and 400 hurdles and qualified for the 1981 AIAW Division II National Championships.
She and her sister, Taryn Carter Wyche, made track and field a family affair at Clarion. Carter ran a school record 1:05.43 in the 400 hurdles, setting a record that lasted for 26 years. She also ran a 14.5 in the 100 hurdles—second only to her sister. Carter Wyche was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014. At the time of Carter’s induction four years later, the Carter sisters were the only siblings in Clarion’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
Carter will move into the President’s House at Lawrence with her husband, Gary Robinson. Their son, Carter, is graduating from a liberal arts college in New England next month and will be a regular visitor to Appleton.
The family dog, Pepper, is not shy about being on camera. The dog starred in Shippensburg’s annual holiday videos since 2017.
Carter has vowed to be an enthusiastic newcomer to all things Wisconsin. “Every person I talk to about Wisconsin, I tell them about the fact that I want to go ice fishing,” she told The Post-Crescent. “I want to eat cheese curds; I want to do it all. Snowmobiling, too. I want to try that. I really just want to get a sense of the culture; the unique things about Wisconsin. I can’t wait. I’m very excited.”
She wants to embrace the important traditions of her new home. “I’ve heard that I am a Packers fan now, and I’m good with that,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Carter collaborated with community leaders in Shippensburg to create a downtown location for the university’s Centers of Excellence. She said enhancing the relationship between a college and its surrounding community is important work, and it will be a priority in Appleton. “I have had discussions with the mayor already and he and I are excited to work together to do just that,” she told The Post-Crescent. “He is a Lawrence alum and he’s a fourth-generation Appletonian, so I think this is the perfect opportunity for us to strengthen those relationships and really make a difference both on campus and in the community in meaningful ways.”