LASPA Launch Day Inspires Scripps Students With Women's Leadership

With an inaugural director finally at its helm, Scripps College's LASPA Center officially launched on April 2 with an event-packed day at Alumnae Field and a line of impressive speakers.

The LASPA Center is named in honor of trustees Eileen Schock Laspa SC ’67 and Jude Laspa HM ’65. According to the Scripps website, “the mission of the LASPA Center is to develop and support future generations of women in leadership, providing them with opportunities to expand access to the necessary attributes, knowledge, and skills to succeed in the 21st century.”

The college recently announced the appointment of Lisa Watson as the inaugural director of the center. Watson, a 20-year veteran in the field of nonprofit management, spent the last decade as Chief Executive Officer of the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC), a nonprofit organization that provides support for homeless women.

Watson will officially begin her directorship April 15.

A stage was set up at Alumnae Field, where day's festivities took place. The afternoon began with workshops moderated by Gen Anderson SC ’91, TV Chef, activist, and businesswoman well-known or her role as producer and host of the TV show Gen’s Guiltless Gourmet.  Then, a diverse group of female leaders each spoke on stage about their lives in a way that embodied the qualities that the LASPA Center seeks to represent.

Laurel Richie, President of the Women’s National Basketball Association, spoke about leadership; Eli Winkelman SC ’07, a social entrepreneur who co-founded the original chapter of Challah for Hunger while attending Scripps College, spoke about service; Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, spoke about integrity; and Martha Gonzalez, a feminist music theorist, an assistant professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o studies, and a singer/songwriter and percussionist for Grammy Award-winning band Quetzal, spoke about creativity.

Megan Goldman SC ’15, a student worker for the Scripps Communications Office, said that she particularly enjoyed listening to Laurel Richie’s talk.

“I was especially inspired by her because she actually for a long time worked at Ogilvy & Mather which is an advertising agency, and I’m going into advertising, too,” she said.

Goldman said that she was also impressed with Richie’s definition of leadership.

“‘You can be a leader and still be a leader by helping others succeed and not succeeding yourself,’ and I think that’s the big goal of the LASPA center from what I understand,” Goldman said.

The keynote presentation was given by Barbara Arnwine SC ’73, who is the president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Arnwine spoke about women’s leadership and how “women’s equality should not be a dream; it should be a reality.”

“Mrs. Arnwine almost brought me to tears because I was just sitting in the audience and hearing the words specifically talking about feminism but feminism through an intersectional lens and talking about putting yourself in your internal compass as a woman of color.” Melissa Krassenstein SC ’16 said. “It was just very inspiring for me, and I really needed somebody to go on stage and say that.”

A surprise was in store for the audience with the announcement of the winners of the LASPA Action Grant, which provided funding for students who proposed projects that could “transform knowledge, passion and ideas into action” and “produce outcomes that make a positive impact,” according to the college’s website.

After screening the grant proposal videos of the six semifinalists, Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson announced the three finalists. Two students, Raquel Selcer SC ’17 and Grace Dahlstrom SC ’16, were chosen by the steering committee, and Eden Amital SC ’17 was the winner of student voting.

Then, Bettison-Varga surprised the audience by announcing that the other three semi-finalists would receive funding as well. After the event, Bettison-Varga told TSL that the decision had been made the same day.

“We really wanted to be able to fund all the projects but we had limited funds in the first round of LASPA,” she said. “We had been talking about it, we finally said we just knew we wanted to do it ... So the board members stepped up and then the senior team and I said we will pitch in our own donations to the institution, and then we’ll make another one from probably my discretionary funds in honor of the speakers who gave us such inspirational talks today."

Arnwine spoke with TSL after the event, when she shared that a Scripps education has been vital in her life. She explained that her education helped her succeed in graduate school, where she was one of only six African-American women. Only two of these women, including herself, ended up graduating. Both had attended women’s undergraduate colleges.

“I hope [the LASPA Center] becomes a catalyst for students to gather, talk about leadership, talk about social justice, talk about enriching the community surrounding the schools,” Arnwine said. “I hope it becomes a force in this institution for looking at social change as more than a notion, as something that people can really achieve, and I want it to be an institutional imperative. Not just something that people feel that they want to do but to be part of what it means to be a Scrippsie.”