This has been a rewarding month amid a challenging year for Vice President for Learner Success and Dean of Campus Life Lawrence P. Ward.
In the expanded leadership role he assumed in July, Ward has been at the forefront of Babson College’s accelerated integration of academic and student life, as well as its ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, in a year of social unrest in response to ongoing and systemic racial injustice, he has had to navigate the tumultuous events both personally and professionally.
The hard work, long hours, and perseverance during stressful times, though, haven’t gone unnoticed. In November, Ward was recognized with a pair of prestigious honors. He was named one of the 2021 Pillars of the Profession by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), and he was named one of the 50 Most Influential Business People of Color in the Newton-Needham MetroWest region by the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber of Commerce.
How would you characterize the Babson community, especially the students, as everyone has navigated the challenges of the pandemic?
“I’m really impressed with how this community has responded to the challenges associated with the pandemic. We’ve asked a lot of our students because that’s what it takes to maintain operations during a public health crisis—focus, intensity, discipline, sacrifice, selflessness, a healthy sense of perspective and good humor. By and large, our students have responded really well for two fundamental reasons. First, they genuinely want to be at Babson and have been willing to adjust, and second, they care about this community and have bought into the shared responsibility of keeping each other safe. I’ve also really been heartened by our faculty and the depth of thought and energy that they’ve put into being responsive to students across modalities and across time zones to really deliver excellence in the learning experience in spite of the pandemic. Finally, I think that Babson as an institution has been especially well-suited for this moment, as an institution that believes in innovation and problem solving and tackling the world’s most pressing problems through our approach to entrepreneurship. If not Babson, then who? I think in this fall semester we’ve really demonstrated that. So, I’m impressed and thankful for this community.”
On top of everything else, you’ve taken on a new role on campus this semester to help integrate academic and student life. What have you enjoyed the most about your new role?
“I’ve spent much more time engaged directly with our faculty during the past six months than at any other point in my tenure at Babson. For as much as COVID-19 is a disruptive force, it has proven to be even more of an accelerant. It has accelerated the need for more consistent and careful collaboration among the academic, student, and campus life elements of the Babson experience. The nature of my expanded leadership role has often placed me squarely at the intersection of so many campus constituencies, including faculty, students, staff, families, governance, local community members, and others. As exhausting as it may be at times, I really enjoy complex decision making, problem solving, and working across different perspectives to move us forward. What I’ve enjoyed the most is that the new role has allowed me to bring my entire leadership skill set and personal competencies to bear on this extraordinary moment in the College’s history.”
“In my career, I’ve only tried consciously to do three things: one, speak truth to power; two, give voice to those who have no voice; and three, be of service to others.”
Lawrence P. Ward
You’ve recently been recognized with a pair of prestigious honors. What do those distinctions mean to you, and how do they reflect your work on campus?
“Yes, November was a good month for me. I was incredibly humbled and honored to be named a Pillar of the Profession by NASPA. It is a distinction that is reserved for those who exemplify the very foundation of student development and success on a college campus. In my career, I’ve only tried consciously to do three things: one, speak truth to power; two, give voice to those who have no voice; and three, be of service to others. When I think about the students and the professional staff that I’ve been blessed to serve, the recognition by NASPA is a satisfying recognition that I’ve done things the right way.
“As for the chamber’s recognition as an influential business person of color in MetroWest, I’ve long believed that to whom much is given, much is expected. I believe in community engagement and being a positive force for good. When people meet me, I suspect that they’re far more impressed with Babson than with me, but it becomes a conversation starter. So, it’s really about my sense of the proper role of the College in the broader community here in MetroWest, so to be recognized as playing an influential role, again, it’s incredibly humbling and special.”
As one of the Most Influential Business People of Color, how have the events and discussions this year around social justice affected you personally, and how have you seen the Babson community respond?
“This has been a difficult year for me emotionally. I’m rarely asked about how I feel personally as an African American male, especially in a senior leadership role. The morning that I learned of Rayshard Brooks’ killing by police in Atlanta in June, I just lost it. I turned off the television news coverage, went out on the front lawn and wept openly. I couldn’t hold it together a moment longer. I couldn’t hold back my feelings of deep pain and devastation over another Black life lost unnecessarily. I’ve never had a doubt about whether my life or other Black lives matter. But, the events of this year have made me really question whether or not my life matters to others. My son just got his license this summer, and as a Black father, I’m scared for my Black son being behind the wheel of a vehicle. That’s not a Dean Ward thing, that’s not a learner success thing, that’s just a human thing.
“In terms of Babson, we have real work to do to be better informed, less assumptive, and therefore, become a more open and inclusive community. The good news is that a college campus is built for the fruitful exchange of ideas, the thoughtful examination of values, and the audacious imperative to engage each other respectfully whether or not we agree. From my perspective, we have to challenge our own assumptions, become more willing to be uncomfortable, reach out, debate, argue, disagree but always listen. Most importantly, commit to learning something new.”
Two More for Lawrence P. Ward
What does Babson mean to you?
“Babson is a community, in every aspect of the word. It’s also a place of learning, innovation, and development, which are hugely important to me as an educator. Babson also means home. It’s not only where I work but also where I live with my family on campus. And, home is a place where there’s love and laughter and where we learn some hard but important truths. For me, it’s also a place of familiarity and comfort.”
Right now, what are you …
- Reading? F*ck That: An Honest Meditation by Jason Headley
- Watching? “Tehran” on Apple TV+, and “Power Book II: Ghost” on Starz
- Listening to? “I recently discovered Maggie Rogers on YouTube, and I’m inspired by her story and music.”
- Doing in your free time? “Free time? That’s funny. I try to be more available to my two teenagers and my wife, who teaches elementary school full time. So, I’m going to the grocery store and doing laundry, cooking meals, and making sure the kids have what they need. So, I’m just trying to be a supportive dad and husband.”
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