Offices of DEI and President move to Wilson House

Photo of Wilson House, where the President’s office is located. Photo by Alana Melvin.

On Aug. 16, 2022, President Laurie Carter announced to the Lawrence community via email that the Offices of the President and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion would be moving from Sampson House to Wilson House. Although the move was announced in August, Chief of Staff to President Carter and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Christyn Abaray said they were focused on the moves of student-facing offices, such as the move of Residential Education from Warch to Raymond House and moving financial aid offices from Brokaw Central to Chapman Hall.  

Abaray stated that after the student-facing offices were moved, the changes left Wilson House as available space — at the same time, Abaray said, that the faculty were seeking a more informal space to grow and develop. According to Abaray, the President’s staff wondered which office would make the most sense to put in Wilson House, but they didn’t want to move the faculty away from their offices and students.  

When the President’s staff went to do more research, Abaray said, they found out the President’s Office used to reside in Wilson House. According to the Lawrence archives, Wilson House was purchased by Lawrence University in 1961. After its purchase, Wilson House hosted many offices, one being the President’s Office before former president Richard Warch started in 1979.  

Abaray said that leaving Sampson House would allow the faculty to use the space for their own development. Although the President’s Office has moved farther from students, Abaray said they were trying to be intentional about making the office feel connected to campus.   

“Yes, we’re on the corner but we’re still here,” said Abaray.  

She said that in December of 2022, the President’s Office hosted an opportunity for faculty and staff to come see the space and have some snacks. Abaray also said that in the future they would like to hold events for the students to come see the space, but, due to the spike in respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19, influenza and RSV, currently they are holding off. 

Before the office was opened, Abaray said, they had a ramp and accessible bathroom installed in Wilson House. She stressed that with these changes they hoped to make the house accessible for all students. Abaray added that during the construction of the new bathroom they discovered natural hard wood floors in Wilson House that Facilities was able to restore.  

Sampson House will also be undergoing many changes, according to Provost and Dean of the Faculty Peter Blitstein. He said that the first floor will be converted partially into the new Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). The rest of the floor will be used as a formal or informal gathering space for faculty.

“Teaching is the most important work of our faculty, and the new CTE and its space will benefit the student experience by establishing a place for faculty to acknowledge that fact,” said Blitstein.   

Abaray said that even though the President’s Office has moved farther away, they still feel connected with the faculty.  

Both Abaray and Blitstein agreed that these office changes, directly or indirectly, will help students. Abaray said that the President’s Office is trying to be intentional not just about inviting students, but also getting the President’s staff out of the office so students still feel their support around campus.