Scripps College announced the appointment of Lisa Watson as
the inaugural director of the LASPA Center after a search
process that lasted almost a year. Watson was one of the three final candidates who visited the college in
February to meet with staff, faculty and students.
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.”
President Lori Bettison-Varga wrote in an email to TSL that Watson is a veteran in the
field of nonprofit management, having worked 20 years in the industry.
“As Chief Executive Officer of the Downtown Women’s Center
(DWC), a nonprofit serving homeless women, she developed and expanded
nationally-recognized housing and supportive services programs, led a $40
million capital campaign for relocation and program expansion, and developed a
4,000-member volunteer organization,” Bettison-Varga wrote.
This is the second attempt by Scripps to find a
director of the LASPA Center. The first attempt ended in February 2014 with
Bettison-Varga’s Feb. 12 announcement that the college had decided not to offer
the position to the search committee’s first-choice candidate, social
justice activist Margaret “Margo” Okazawa-Rey. The decision was met with strong
backlash from students, with a group of students staging a protest Feb. 17.
Writing professor Kimberly Drake was part of the brand new steering committee comprised of
staff, faculty, students and alumnae that began meeting last September to
oversee the hiring process and clarify the center’s mission and the director’s job
“One problem with the first committee—this was the problem
that was publicly stated—was that the position was not defined, which is true,” Drake said. “It was very vaguely defined. There has never really been a very
clear definition of what was wrong exactly with that candidate or why the whole
thing had to be reconfigured.”
A smaller portion of the steering committee constituted the
search committee, which was directly in charge of selecting interview candidates in January and then choosing the three final candidates. The three
candidates came to campus separately Feb. 12, 16 and 18 to
meet with faculty, staff and students.
According to Bettison-Varga, the search committee then
narrowed the pool down to two final candidates. Bettison-Varga wrote that she
made the final decision, after reviewing all comments submitted by community
members who attended the candidate forums and speaking
with references provided by the candidates.
Drake said that one aspect of Watson that made her stand out
from the other two final candidates was her broad knowledge of service
opportunities in L.A. Bettison-Varga also wrote that Watson “brings a wealth of
experience to this new opportunity,” and that she has a background working with institutions in both the public and private sectors.
Drake said that the steering committee will continue to
exist, even if with different members, to assist the new director as she gets to know the campus community and
convince it of the center’s mission.
“My sense is this organization will connect students to
opportunities to serve in the community,” Drake said. “That’s one thing it can do and it
sounds to me like it’s going to do a lot of that, given the new director’s
background. It’s going to allow students to take all of their liberal arts
learning and apply it, [using] it in these other contexts that are not really
LASPA will officially launch April 2 with workshops, a reception, and a keynote presentation at the Sallie Tiernan Field House.