LV Life Editor
Devorah Lieberman became the University of La Verne’s 18th president, and first woman to hold the position, when she took office on July 1.
In a recent interview she discussed what attracted her to the University, her plans for upcoming years and what will be the La Verne experience.
What attracted you to the University of La Verne?
When the search firm first called me I did not know a thing about the University of La Verne. I had heard of it but I did not know where it was, I did not know its mission.
So they sent me the institutional profile and it started with everything this institution does is grounded in four values: lifelong learning, civic engagement, inclusivity and diversity and ethical reasoning.
I read those four values and I said those are my four values. Not only do they put that up front and center for the University, but as I kept reading this profile I understood that these values are threaded throughout the curriculum, student activities and in the language that the campus talks about.
That is what I think higher education should be; quality education and these values.
The question I had was if what is on paper is a reality. When I came for the search committee interview everybody on the committee was exactly mirroring what I read in this institutional profile.
When I came to campus and met the students it sealed the deal because the students were the most respectful, appreciative and the least entitled students I had ever met in my life.
What are your plans for the 2011 to 2012 school year?
We are going to spend the entire year doing strategic planning for 2020. The strategic planning will focus on institutional identity and academic excellence.
What institutional identity do we want to have and how do we have academic excellence for four colleges, 10 campuses, graduate, undergraduate and CAPA students.
We are going to have a strategic plan and we are going to figure out resources to support it. What are the facilities we need to support it and what are the human resources?
Then we take this to have a more national visibility so that students from across the country are saying, “That is the school I want to go to.” That is our goal.
Do you have any future construction plans?
As we do our capital projects planning aligned with the strategic planning that I talked about, we will be able to prioritize what other construction projects that we want to work on in relation to the campus saying these are priorities.
The big thing right now that has already started is the residence hall which is really going to be gorgeous, and the parking lot because I also drive around looking for a place to park.
That residence hall is going to be a tremendous asset to being able to house more students who want to live on campus.
It will provide a lot more opportunities for us to house local, regional, national and international students that we could not do before.
What are your plans regarding the law school?
Just so everybody remembers, the law school did not get accredited by the American Bar Association last spring; I started in July.
But I believe in this law school. I think the law school exists because it is a reflection of our values, and I think it has a place at the University of La Verne.
Our students have to be able to pass the bar exam and that is a critical element of this equation.
We are obligated as an institution to provide a quality law education to our students and to help them pass the bar exam.
Whether we are fully accredited by the ABA or by the California Bar Association, and at the moment we are hoping to be ABA, my plan is to collect all this data and see what will be the best path for our institution. Then it is for the board of trustees to make the decision on what kind of law school we are going to be.
Where do you hope to see the University in 10 years?
I have two answers to that question. This year we are doing a very serious strategic planning process and I am calling it the University of La Verne’s 20/20 vision.
Where the conversation will start is how do we maintain academic excellence across all the campuses and what will be our institutional identity.
We have 10 campuses, four colleges and one university. So with that, what will be our institutional identity in this very complex educational enterprise?
Then supporting our academic excellence and institutional identity, what are the facilities we need, what are the financial resources, what are the human resources and how do we get a national reputation around that institutional identity?
That is going to go on the whole year and at the end of the year the board of trustees will say “We like this,” or “This is what we want to change,” and we will be committed to that until 2020.
Along with that, what I believe is going to give us this institutional identity and knit together all of these campuses, is the La Verne experience.
Can you explain what the La Verne experience will entail?
The La Verne experience is going to be a curriculum that is designed by the campus.
It will be interdisciplinary where students will see the connections between subjects and courses, so that they are learning communities.
I want them to be theory practice so theory in the classroom and practice in the community. That way what you are learning in your courses will be applied.
Then it will have a reflective component so you will have the opportunity to articulate the theory from the class to the application in the community.
It is a triangle; the content of the class, the practice in the community and then theory that is all grounded in the four elements of our mission
All freshmen have to take a learning community that blends two disciplines.
You select the one you want, they blend disciplines, they take the theory that you are learning in that course, you take it into the community so it helps the community and helps you understand that theory.
Then you have a reflective component and you are becoming a great thinker by the theory of the practice.
You graduate after your senior year, feeling a tremendous commitment to the world wanting to make it a better place because you have figured out how to do it in your courses.
So you will be what I call a civic professional. You are committed to making your life better and other people’s lives better. That will be the La Verne experience and it will distinguish us from any other university in the country.
At the end of your presidency for what do you hope to be known?
I hope that when people talk about Devorah Lieberman and her presidency they will say that Dr. Lieberman focused on academic excellence, institutional identity, shared visioning and achieving the outcomes that we designed together as a campus.
That every student who leaves the University of La Verne and that graduates says “I made the right choice.” I want them to say “I choose to come to La Verne, I made the right choice and I experienced the La Verne experience.”
When we do the visioning for this year I want us to work on a curriculum that cuts across all the campuses and is something that is so unique to this institution that when a student graduates they say “I did not just have an experience, I had the La Verne experience and it was special.”
Amanda Nieto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.