Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter announced in an email Thursday afternoon that she will leave the university this summer to take the same position at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The announcement comes about two months after Ramapo College of New Jersey named Carter as a finalist in its presidential search.
SU announced Carter as its 17th president on May 17, 2017. She began her tenure Aug. 7, 2017, following the retirement of former president George “Jody” Harpster.
Lawrence University officials announced Carter as its 17th president in a video and press release Thursday afternoon. Carter will be the first person of color to serve as Lawrence’s president.
According to a Lawrence University news release, Carter will begin her new position July 1. She is replacing Mark Burstein, who announced in September 2020 that he would depart at the end of this academic year following eight years in the position.
According to Lawrence’s website, it has an undergraduate enrollment of 1,472, with student representation from 47 states and more than 45 countries. It has 173 full-time faculty members.
The campus in Appleton is located about an hour and a half north of Milwaukee.
Presidential Search Committee Chair Cory Nettles said the committee wanted a person who could aid in financial challenges facing Lawrence University, like others across the nation.
“We wanted someone who would deepen the learning opportunities for Lawrence students, someone who was capable of managing the tremendous financial challenges that are buffeting liberal arts colleges all across the country, someone who would help us continue down the journey we’re on of diversity and inclusion and our goal to become an anti-racist institution, and someone who understands the hallmarks of a private, residential, liberal arts college,” Nettles said. “There was one candidate who rose to the top of our list and who stayed there, and that candidate is Laurie Carter.”
Carter impressed the search committee “at every turn” of its six-month process, the release said. The committee included Lawrence University students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees.
“Certainly, her experience as a sitting college president at Shippensburg University was among her top attributes,” Nettles said. “But we also found that Laurie has a calm, steely demeanor, she’s extremely collected, she’s thoughtful, she’s insightful, she’s a good listener. And most important, perhaps, she was a fan of our student representatives at every stage of the process.”
Search committee officials unanimously recommended Carter to the Board of Trustees, who “enthusiastically accepted the recommendation.”
“I believe her energy, experience and shared values will move us forward in essential and important ways,” Burstein said of his successor.
Carter told The Slate that she will miss the people, sense of family and community at Shippensburg University.
“Working across the university to meet the challenges facing Shippensburg University required everyone pulling together to focus on student success. I am so grateful for the work of the community to move Ship forward,” Carter said.
She said she is drawn to the mission and values of Lawrence University.
As noted in the Lawrence news release, Carter is returning to a private school setting. She previously spent 25 years in leadership at The Juilliard School in New York City. Lawrence University’s campus includes a conservatory.
In her email to campus community members, Carter shared her gratitude for the opportunity to serve as SU president.
“I am so grateful to have had the privilege of serving as the president of Shippensburg University for the last four years. It has been my great honor to work alongside you as we tackled the many challenges the university has faced,” Carter wrote.
“This was not an easy decision. It is hard to say goodbye. I have loved working with you and serving in the system that prepared me for this important next step in my career as a higher education leader,” Carter said in her email. “It has been one of the great joys and accomplishments of my career to serve the students, faculty and staff of Shippensburg University, and I am glad that I have a few more months with you to keep moving our mighty Ship forward. I will relish every moment.”
In her email, Carter emphasized accomplishments at Shippensburg during her tenure. Carter said her focus on improving student success resulted in the creation of a first-year experience program, a first-generation college students’ program, a student success center and a student-athlete academic center. Student retention rose by 6% in her tenure, she said.
Carter serves on the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s Social Justice Task Force, which was established in December. She also implemented an executive-level chief diversity officer position at SU and has overseen the development of such programs as a statewide Black Male Symposium and an Anti-Racism Institute.
Other accomplishments Carter highlighted in her email include the creation of the downtown location for SU’s Center of Excellence – a collaboration with local businesses to better connect the community and campus – and the renovation of the former steam plant to house the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s first School of Engineering.
Carter’s hiring was a milestone for SU, as she was the first woman and the first person of color to serve as president on a permanent basis. It was Carter’s first return to PASSHE since earning her bachelor’s degree from Clarion University.
PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said Thursday afternoon that Carter “exemplifies everything we stand for at the State System of Higher Education.”
“Personally, she has been a close advisor for me, and we all will miss her voice, wisdom and perspective as she prepares for the next chapter in her life,” he said.
Greenstein said he will work with the PASSHE Board of Governors and Shippensburg’s Council of Trustees in the coming months “on the appropriate next steps” regarding an interim president.