Grace Cavanaugh ~ Co-Editor in Chief
In July of 2020, President Garren will be stepping down from his position and the University of Lynchburg will be instating Dr. Allison Morrison-Shetlar as the new president.
As the first female president of the University, Dr. Morrison-Shetlar said, “ I am delighted to be making history on campus and it is very important to me that I represent the institution. Being the first woman is drawing attention to the University, and that is something that is really important […] as an institution that supports diversity. I am the first woman, and I am also from Scotland. It is very exciting for me to come in.”
She continued, “Right now, I have a little bit of a transition period. I am using this time to meet with students, staff, and faculty members. My goal is to meet everyone on campus, and I have already started to do that. To me, it is important to know what the ambitions are of the institution, and work with [the staff and students] to plan and see where we are. What I have been hearing from you all is that, like everywhere else, we need resources, and we need to identify what needs those resources first. My plan is to listen and learn, from the institution and the students, the faculty, and the staff, and together we will formulate a plan for the future.”
Dr. Morrison-Shetlar said, “I am telling people about the excellence of the University of Lynchburg, the things that the students are doing, the academics, the opportunities that are available at the University of Lynchburg, and so for me, it is getting the knowledge of the excellence of Lynchburg out to potential students and their families. We need to make sure that we have the services in place for students to be successful. Interactions between the students and faculty, telling the story that the University has, so that people will want to come to the University, want to stay at the University, and then be successful once they graduate.”
As the campus transitions to new leadership and tackles the need for new infrastructure, Hobbs-Siegler said, “My plans are, …beginning to look for resources to be able to support that. We already have people who [can help with] the Hobbs-Siegler renovations and restructuring. We want to look for more people who would be supportive of that. It can be helping with equipment, for example, for the sciences. It can be offering opportunities to bring their network to the table to show what could happen if renovations were to happen in Hobbs-Siegler. So to me, my job is to again tell the stories, whatever the needs. Why do we need the money to do these renovations? What is the impact on the student experience?
To address the tempestuous atmosphere last semester surrounding racially charged events on campus, Dr. Morrison-Shetlar said, “Let me first say diversity and inclusive excellence is part of my DNA. It is the thing I have worked on for a lot of my career. I think it is important to have diversity of thought, diversity across writ large, as I say, to be able to bring a lot of different people from different backgrounds together. You have got to then create an environment where everyone feels welcomed and respected for their contributions to the institution. Faculty, staff, students, everybody needs to work together to create a welcoming environment.”
“The development that occurred as I was being announced was obviously very troubling, and I was very pleased with the fact that we brought people together immediately. President Garren bringing the task force together, but also how student affairs and other students on campus came together, found out exactly what happened, why it happened, and then made sure that the campus knew that there was a follow up to this. So for me, obviously, it will be very, very supportive of the task force. Dr. Canida is new on campus. He comes with tremendous background, as does Dr. Aaron Smith. There is just great opportunity to bring people together, […] to understand why people have differences and show we can work together to create that respectful, that welcoming, and that safe environment for everyone on campus. Very, very important to me that we have a diverse community and that we respect those differences. [There are an] enormous number of similarities amongst people that sometimes we do not realize until we sit down and have conversations.”
On a more personal note, Dr. Morrison-Shetlar said, “There is a lot being put out there about me. What I would like people to know about me is my deep wish to be part of a liberal arts institution that really values the arts, the sciences, the humanities, that educates people that will be contributing citizens in the future, and that building a community that is respectful and welcoming [is important] to me.”
Dr. Morrison-Shetlar “comes from a very varied background, but [I] was brought up on an island on the west coast of Scotland, so I went to a very small primary school, a very small high school. I really grew and thrived as an individual because I knew my teachers. I knew my faculty. [They] wanted to provide an environment where I was successful. I can tell you I was a very shy young woman and it was my teachers and my faculty that helped me grow as an individual. I have been committed throughout my career to creating those environments where everyone can find a place and be successful in education, in the community and in the world. So for me, it is important to see, to let people know that that is something I value and that the values of the University of Lynchburg mirror my values completely.”
She continued, “I am a biologist, but I have been an administrator for many years now. [People say,] ‘Well, you are a scientist. What do you know about the arts? What do you know about the humanities?’ I will tell you, I am a quilter. I love making quilts. I love the quilt that is hanging in the chapel. It is absolutely, stunningly beautiful. It was the first thing, as I went into the chapel, I went straight towards it to have a look at it.”
In addition to quilting, Dr. Morrison-Shetlar said, “My husband and I like to kayak and hike. I do a lot of walking. I told people that you will see me around campus a lot, out walking. I like to have meetings by walking. You will see me in the dining hall. You will see me out on campus an awful lot because it is very important for me to be outdoors. I love the outdoors. But that is also where I like to meet people.”
“My husband is an avid road cyclist. I am not a road cyclist. So I like to walk and do those kinds of things. I make my own jewelry and I do a lot of sort of craft work. I really enjoy stained glass work and those kinds of things. For fun, going to music performances and theater performances, poetry readings, both on campus and in the community. I cannot wait to get to see the Daura gallery. I cannot wait to go to student performances and hear faculty recitals. Those are things that make me happy.”
Dr. Morrison-Shetlar finished by saying, “I am just really excited to be becoming the 11th president of [the University of Lynchburg]. I know I am creating history by being the first woman, by being the first person that is an international woman coming to campus. I cannot wait to meet the students, the faculty and the staff. And as I said, I like to walk. [I like going to where] they are as opposed to them coming to my office, so [I will] be open to those that want to talk to me, but I am hoping that people will welcome me and that they will tell me their stories and let me hear their successes, because then I can take those stories out to others who I want to have invest in the University of Lynchburg and […] work towards a successful environment where all our students can be successful regardless of what they want to do in their future.”
Dr. Morrison-Shetlar said, if students, faculty, or staff want to get into contact with her, “I am on social media already at the University and posting and sharing as much as I can. This is another way in which I am able to ‘tell the Lynchburg stories’ to prospective and incoming students as well as people on campus and in the community.”
Her Twitter handle is @PrezElectUL, and she can be found on Instagram at prezelectlynchburg and on LinkedIn at Alison Morrison-Shetlar.