Beginning Spring 2017, Laurie Joyner, Ph.D, will become the 20th president at Saint Xavier University. She is preceded by Dr. Christine Wiseman who began her presidency at SXU in 2010 and retired in Fall 2016. In order to get to know our future president , the Xavierite conducted an interview with Dr. Joyner.
Dr. Joyner is a first generation college student who majored in Sociology at Loyola University New Orleans. She worked both on and off campus jobs during her undergraduate years. After discovering her passion with the discipline of Sociology, she pursued a Master’s and Doctoral degree at Tulane University.
“Education really helped me figure out who I was as a person and what my values were, and it helped me think about my responsibilities to others and my responsibilities to the larger world,” said Dr. Joyner.
Before Saint Xavier University, Dr. Joyner worked at Loyola University New Orleans as a faculty member for 12 years, and later became an Associate Dean. Afterwards, Dr. Joyner became a Dean at Rollins College; and, subsequently, president at Wittenberg University.
Dr. Joyner quickly replied with an “I love it” when she was asked what she thought about Saint Xavier University. She added that what drew her to SXU was its mission.
“Educating students to go on, to be responsible leaders, to figure out who they are, to live successful lives, and build successful careers; that is my calling, so to speak,” she stated. “Because that’s what my undergraduate education did for me. [I was] this shy young person who was the very first person in my family to go to college, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t understand how the whole thing worked and when I came out of there, because of the personal relationships with the faculty and the staff there, I was confident.”
She also explained what came to mind when she read and learned about SXU, “there seems to be a deep commitment to provide a rigorous, whole-person education, so not just to focus the students’ heads, but also the students’ hearts and to help them understand their responsibility to others within this community, as well as to engage some of the tough social issues facing our external community right now, so I love to focus on quality and rigor. I also love what I read in terms of [it] being a very engaging and active learning experience. So we know from the higher education literature that students persist and do better and are better prepared for the future if they’re actively engaged in their education . . . It’s just a very welcoming and warm kind of place, so that’s the kind of place I want to be a part of,” said Dr. Joyner.
For Dr. Joyner, one of the most important things a new president can do is to really get to know the students, the faculty, and the staff.
“I really want to understand, even at a deeper level, the history and heritage of the place, the mission of the place, but I also want to talk to a number of different people [and] try to understand what the strengths of the place are, what the hopes and aspirations are of the students, the faculty and the staff. Because it’s not really about me coming in and sort of doing something, it’s about us coming together as a community and saying ‘these are the great things of Saint Xavier, these are the things that we see that we have to make strategic priority to help better position the institution for the future,” said Dr. Joyner.
Additionally, she mentioned five themes that she hopes to explore early on: governance, mission and identity, student success, programs to add to meet student demand, and financial sustainability .
“Governance has to do with the way we lead and manage our institution in a collaborative way and with both our board of trustees, as well as with our faculty, and in some cases with our staff and students . . . I really want to look at governance and make sure we are talking about the rights and responsibilities of all those different groups to come together in order to work for the greater good of Saint Xavier . . . I’m also really interested in mission and identity issues. We are a Catholic mercy institution of higher education, so I want to learn more of what that means to people that are here and how those values get reflected in our decisions. The other thing I’m really interested in is our curriculum; what programs are we offering, what programs we might need to add in order to meet the interest of our students now and our future students,” said Dr. Joyner.
“With the economy being stagnant, it’s making it more and more difficult for our institution to remain affordable and accessible for students. So we have to talk about all of those issues and we have to figure out how can we put Saint Xavier on an even stronger trajectory [towards] the future [and] to be able to continue it’s commitment to being accessible to students, affordable to students, by offering programs that students want, and by offering a just well-rounded educational experience that will prepare them and this is the key, prepare them for life after Saint Xavier.”
“We want our students to go on, not just to build successful lives, but successful careers, and then of course what we want, and this is critically important, is that when they go and build those meaningful lives and successful careers, that they then reach back and remember Saint Xavier and every single year make some contribution to the annual fund . . . the amount doesn’t matter nearly as much as you are doing it every single year to help those behind you, just like you’ve been helped, we need to help those behind us,” said Dr. Joyner.
When asked what she was looking forward to the most, she quickly replied spending time with students. “That’s what brings me joy. I feel very honored and privileged to serve in this position . . . What brings me true joy when I’m exhausted or if it hasn’t been a particularly great day, I can tell you you’ll find me in the diner interacting with students because it’s students like you that remind me why I do what I do. Because at the core of it all, I always say, if we focus on mission and we focus on students, everything else will fall into place, “ said Dr. Joyner. She is also looking forward to attending student events such as football games; along with her family joining her to engage in the university’s community.
“I feel like the job of a dean or a vice president or a president is still a teaching learning position. I feel like I’m teaching all the time and learning all the time, It’s just, instead of the traditional 18 to 24 year olds, I’m teaching and learning from students, faculty and staff. I’m most looking forward to just deepening my knowledge about this incredible place, this incredible learning community,” said Dr. Joyner.
Dr. Joyner added that she will eventually open her doors for students, faculty and staff at different times and days.
“I’m just really blessed and privileged to be here and to serve. What I would want to say to students is that eventually I’ll do open office hours . . . And please, if there’s anything they want to communicate, know that I’m here, I want to know them, and am here for them,” concluded Dr. Joyner.
Senior News Editor