LASPA Center founding director: Lisa Watson

Lisa Watson

Lisa Watson has been selected as the founding director for the LASPA Center. Watson joins the College after more than 20 years of work with nonprofits and women’s organizations, such as the Glendale YWCA. For the last 10 of those years, Watson was head of the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) on Skid Row in Los Angeles and helped it expand into what KCET recently called a “nationally recognized model program.” She is eager to establish a similar legacy here. Below are excerpts from an interview with Watson and Scripps Magazine:

Scripps: Why does the LASPA Center director position appeal to you?

Watson: I’ve worked at women’s organizations on social justice issues, so the LASPA Center mission aligns with my core values and professional experience. The director role is particularly exciting because it provides another opportunity to grow an organization from the ground up, as I have done in previous positions. The LASPA Center has great potential to have an impact on students, most importantly, but also on alumnae and the broader community.

Scripps: How do you plan to define the priorities and programs for the LASPA Center?

Watson: The nice thing about starting something new is there is no “this is how we used to do it.” I hope to use wisdom-holder meetings to bring in different constituents and hear their ideas for what the LASPA Center should look like. To ensure the center can serve as a hub and a resource for the community, it is critical to focus on outreach. People have many different ideas about what the LASPA Center should be, so my initial focus will be on finding where the common ground lays.

Scripps: What are some of your preliminary ideas?

Watson: It will be exciting to work with students to redefine leadership for the 21st century. I want to ensure we recognize that leaders may come from external groups and organizations as well as from faculty and staff. I’ve already observed many great leaders here at Scripps, and we should leverage our internal assets to attract global support and resources.

Scripps: What are the differences and/or similarities between academic and nonprofit organizations?

Watson: I’ve worked most of my life in communities that are very disenfranchised, helping women to find a voice. At Scripps, students are actively finding their voices and utilizing them to make a difference. While these are different methods of engagement, they’re similar in their focus to make sure people are heard and feel they are making a contribution.


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