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Carrying On a History of Success

Pictured above: Laura Vausbinder Hockett ’85

By Nisha Jaime

Laura Vausbinder Hockett graduated from Scripps College in 1985, majoring in biology/chemistry. Following graduation, Hockett put down roots in Massachusetts. Despite the distance, her ties to Scripps College remained strong. Hockett has been a Scripps Trustee since 2014, working in multiple capacities to benefit the College.

 

Most recently, Hockett served on the Presidential Search Committee and is eager to welcome the new president, Dr. Suzanne Keen, this July. At that time, Hockett, who is currently the co-vice chair of the Board of Trustees, will move into a pivotal role of her own as chair of the Board.

 

In anticipation of her new position, Hockett sat down with Jaela Alvarez ’23, a Scholar-in-Action with the Laspa Center for Leadership, and spoke with her about her plans to work collaboratively with the campus community and the traditions she hopes to uphold.

 

Jaela Alvarez: Tell me about your career and your passions. 

 

Laura Hockett: Since Scripps, there have been quite a few career changes and lots of moves, but there are some common threads. I was a biology/chemistry major in what was then called the Joint Science Department. After Commencement, I went to graduate school to get an MS in pharmacology at the University of Colorado. I then worked in the biomedical industry in technical marketing and sales. In 1995, I returned to school again (I love being a student!). I earned an MBA at Harvard Business School—that is what prompted my move to the Boston area, where my husband and I have lived ever since. After business school, I returned to the medical field at the management level. I then had our three daughters and made another shift, focusing on community-level engagement: I became very active on a number of town boards and with town management. That led me to not just engage with my local community, but the broader Boston metro community as well. I started doing nonprofit consulting, working with an organization called Social Venture Partners Boston. We partner with about 15 organizations each year, recruiting teams of consultants to assist emerging nonprofits that exhibit growth potential. This has enabled me to work with several organizations that service the area in really interesting and diverse ways. 

 

I thought that given my experience with board work, as well as governance, I could bring something of value to Scripps.

            —Laura Vausbinder Hockett ’85

 

JA: What inspired you to join the Scripps Board of Trustees? 

 

LH: When I moved to the Boston area, I was not initially as engaged with Scripps. I have always provided philanthropic support but did not engage otherwise as an alumna. It was not until I connected with one of the members of the Scripps advancement team, who would visit Boston regularly and share updates on the great happenings on campus, that I re-engaged with the College. I learned that Joanne Keith ’63, who introduced me to Scripps as a high school student, was on the Board of Trustees. I thought that, given my experience with board work as well as governance, I could bring something of value to Scripps. 

 

JA: How did your education at Scripps, or your previous work, prepare you for a leadership role in this community? 

 

LH: In addition to the critical thinking aspect, which is central to the Scripps education, I think it is not only the competence but the confidence I gained: I am willing to take on things of which I am not assured success, but I am willing to try. Because I can, and I have the capacity to, I am excited to be engaged. I would say my education provided the foundation to enable a life and career of multiple transitions, enabling me to take on new challenges and leadership roles.

 

We need to ensure that we are positioned for the next 100 years to be as strong as we have been.

            —Laura Vausbinder Hockett ’85

 

JA: I appreciate that. I think Scripps instills confidence in its students, which is something that I have taken away from being a student here. What are you looking forward to in this position, and what do you hope to bring? 

 

LH: What I really want to do is carry on the successes of the previous chairs. I have been on the Board for seven years and, during those years, there has been excellent leadership and role models in Board governance so that everyone’s voice is heard. But it is not just within the Board, but also how the Board then hears from other constituents in the community. That is first and foremost; I want to continue the tradition of having a very strong, supportive Board of the administration. I am very excited about the new president coming on; I think it is an opportunity to continue that growth and engagement with her. We are heading into our Centennial in four years, so there is an extraordinary opportunity to highlight Scripps’ achievements on a national stage in a bigger way. That is what I am excited about. There are also numerous opportunities as we all get back to campus. It will require a significant adjustment for everyone to transition to a new normal but not miss a beat and maintain our strong trajectory.

 

I think Scripps definitely instills confidence in its students, which is something that I have taken away from being a student here.

            —Jaela Alvarez ’23

 

Jaela Alvarez ’23

 

JA: On the opposite side of that, what struggles are you expecting to face while serving the Scripps community?

 

LH: One always hopes that you will not have any struggles, but in situations that are very dynamic with multiple constituents, challenges are inevitable. The important focus is to try to anticipate and avoid major struggles, making sure all constituents are heard while balancing the need. You cannot meet everyone’s needs, but it is important to understand and communicate effectively how you plan to prioritize and to balance them, while clearly articulating and engaging in conversation so everyone understands what the various positions are.

 

JA: What are you most excited about in this new position? 

 

LH: There are quite a few things, actually. Number one is getting back on campus. I have not been there in two years! And communication with the community is just not the same on Zoom. We usually have Board meetings on campus over the course of several days, giving us the time to really explore issues. I think there are a number of very interesting initiatives that the administration has taken on, including in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, in which the Board can become more engaged. We started this work, but we are nowhere near where we need to be. So, that is going to be an exciting opportunity for us as a Board to focus on internally, as well as to project that to the community. There are also several questions on the sustainability of the business model of the College; as a small liberal arts institution, we need to ensure that we are positioned for the next 100 years to be as strong as we have been. When I was at Scripps, my class size was 95, and so we are making gains in building a robust alumnae base as some other universities have. There are some challenges there, but I think we have the opportunity, given where we are now, to build on the strength of the College.