By Taylor Galla ‘18
This past Thursday, April 2, Scripps College had the official launch of the LASPA Center, a brand new center which will provide resources to Scripps women to develop their leadership skills and potential.
The official mission of the LASPA center reads, “The mission of the LASPA Center for Leadership is to develop and support future generations of women leaders, providing them with the necessary attributes, knowledge and skills to succeed in the 21st century.”
The project is more than five years in the making, after a generous $5 million donation from Eileen Shock Laspa ‘67 and Jude Laspa HMC ‘65. After extensive searches for a director and development of the center and its ideals, the center has officially launched and is soon to be up and running.
The launch took place on Scripps’ Alumnae Field and consisted of distinguished female speakers who talked about Leadership, Service, Integrity and Creativity.
Haley Godtfredsen ‘16 attended the event and said, “I’m really excited about this center. I’m excited to see in which direction they take it because there has been a lot of controversy over that. So seeing how it will actually be implemented on campus is interesting. I’m also excited for the speakers tonight and for the launch party.”
The speakers were accomplished and admirable women from all facets of work environments and included Eli Winkelman ‘07 who founded “Challah for Hunger;” Martha Gonzales, an activist feminist music theorist and professor of Chicano/ Latino studies at Scripps; Laurel J. Richie, president of the WNBA; and Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor for Violence Against Women. All of them exemplified the four pillar words (Leadership, Service, Integrity and Creativity) of the LASPA center and demonstrated to everyone in the audience just what this center is about.
The words “We Act” were displayed extensively all over the launch as the slogan and mood of the event and of the center in general. It encoures young women to act in many different ways-- for example, to act in the workplace, to act through self-advocacy in relationships, and to act in the classroom, just to name a few.
The launch consisted of workshops, a strolling reception and a keynote address from Lynn Rosenthal, along with the revealing of the winners of the LASPA Action Grants. The Action Grants’ goals, according to the LASPA Center Grants page on the Scripps portal, are “to provide opportunities for students (1) to transform knowledge, passion and ideas into action (2) demonstrate creative and effective problem-solving (3) create partnership(s) in public or private sector and (4) produce outcomes that make a positive impact.” With the winning of each Grant, the recipient gets $4500 for summer living and any expenses directly related to completing the project. In addition they may receive up to $1000 for transportation, supplies, etc. The proposed grants included projects surrounding disability justice with Eden Noa Amital ‘17, women in STEM careers with Grace Dahlstrom ‘16, raising awareness of agent orange with Maya Espiritu ’16, work with Crossroads graduates with Alexandra Harder ‘17, sustainability with agriculture and culinary arts with Edith Ortega ‘18 and health education in Humboldt County with Raquel Selcer ‘17. The Action Grant program is exemplary of how the work of the LASPA Center will not only enable women in the community to become leaders, but will also benefit the community as a whole with their work.
Many students, alumnae, faculty and staff attended the launch and expressed their interest in what the launch and the center will have to offer to the community.
“I’m really excited about it [the LASPA Center] because I think it will do a good job of integrating leadership through business, finance, that sort of thing as well as service,” Sarah Berschinski ‘17 said. One of the initial concerns of it was it being too focused on business or too much on service so I think now they’re doing a good job of implementing the two.”
One extremely influential face in the Center’s creation that many people have yet to meet is its newly hired director, Lisa Watson. With an extensive background in social work with YWCAs and Downtown Women’s Center, she has spent her entire career working at women’s non-profit organizations. She received her Bachelor’s from California State University and then attended University of Judaism, now American Jewish University, for her MBA.
When asked what drew her to Scripps, Watson explained “when I found out about Scripps, it was such a good match. One thing is just the belief, the connection that I get and the values of empowerment for women, and the sense of community that’s so strong here.”
Watson said that the goal of the LASPA center is to build on the resources already available at Scripps and create opportunities for rising Scripps women to obtain and successfully work within leadership positions.
“So, as you can see, kind of the tagline for today is ‘We Act,’ and that’s kind of the action for the whole plan of the LASPA Center is really to take innovative approaches to learning leadership, and to create an environment where there’s more opportunity to mend war,” Watson said.
She elaborated on the ideas she has for the Center as well as the goal to get ideas from students and collaborate with them about what the Center should be and what it should provide.
“So for example, internships,” Watson said. “Looking for leadership positions, like board positions, for students to be on. And having visiting scholars that are of interest to the students, to the faculty, to the staff. And having workshops that will give you more practical skills… how to negotiate, for example…. Those are some of the ideas but I’m really looking forward to innovative approaches, and that, I think, will come from my work with the students, and learning from them what they want to see.”
Watson has also expressed a need for a student intern in the LASPA Center, to get in touch with the student body and have that concrete connection to benefit the work being done.
“Well first thing is I want to get a student intern that can help me to kind of guide through — because there’s a lot of different activities on campus,” Watson said. “I was being told about the BeHeard Forum, so I want to attend the different events. But one of the first things I want to do is plan what I’m calling “Wisdom Holder Meetings,” where we work together to create the vision. And I want to not only have this, but also utilize the students to do the Wisdom Holder Meetings in the general community and with the alumni. So integrate them with that process, too.”
When asked about her vision for the LASPA Center, Watson explained that she hopes the Center grows to be recognized on a state and national level.
“One of the goals is that we want a nationally recognized women’s leadership institute on the West Coast,” Watson said. “And we want to be very student-driven by having student conferences here. We want to have women leaders who want to come to Scripps,” said Watson. “But I think that if we look five years from now, I hope that we are recognized not only on the state, but on the national level. Scripps is the third women’s premier college, so this institute should be a premier center. And I don’t see any barriers why that cannot be. And I think having a national model and practicing best practices are really important. That’s why at the Downtown Women’s Center we were a nationally recognized program, because we were using a best practices, and spending a lot of time researching and figuring out what was most effective. And I think that’s what the LASPA Center wants to do, too.”