Being one of few HBCU women’s institutions, Bennett College has never steered away from making progressive moves for the benefit of its student body. Now with the hiring of new academic affairs Vice President Dr. Laura Colson, yet another step has been made to stay ahead of the curve. Learn more about the 2-time HBCU VP in the release from Bennett below!
When Dr. Colson received the call that she had been selected for the position of vice president of academic affairs at Bennett, she felt “…beyond elated by this opportunity to serve a community of bright young women.”
“With the announcement of our new strategic direction—a Blueprint for HERstory—we were looking for a vice president who was ready, willing, able to embrace and help co-create the Blueprint,” says Suzanne E. Walsh, president of Bennett College. The college’s new strategic direction includes creating a healthy, whole student experience—an idea evidenced throughout Colson’s career.
“Dr. Colson has demonstrated leadership in innovation, e-learning, expanding access for marginalized and often ignored student populations, championing faculty professional development, and focus on creating a student-centered environment. She is a great fit for Bennett College at this pivotal moment of reinvention,” Walsh said.
Known for her holistic approach, Colson’s ability to integrate and reinforce a culture of connection and engagement among students set her apart from the other candidates who applied for the vice president of academic affairs job.
Perhaps that’s because for Colson, reinvention isn’t just a theoretical exercise. Her understanding of students’ needs is informed by her own experiences overcoming obstacles. “The past couple of years, I have experienced many personal challenges and transitions, and I have emerged a better person, educator and leader on the other side. For me, anti-fragility is not a mere abstract concept but is demonstrated in my personal and professional journey,” said Colson. She understands that being able to work through challenges and come to a place of self-acceptance is critical to the kinds of breakthroughs students need to make to be successful in college and beyond.
“I believe we truly have to go through things, to come out on the other side with clarity on our purpose. To go through something, you are met with trials, hurt, regrets, obstacles, uncertainty, guilt, and heartbreak,” Colson said.
Colson comes to Bennett from her position as associate vice president for academic affairs at Johnson C. Smith University, where she has been since 2005. There, Dr. Colson successfully instituted online degree programs. Most recently, she worked on a cross-functional team to transition the campus to online learning and then prepare for the reopening of school during the pandemic. She’s proven that she knows how to act fast, be nimble, and problem-solve.
She says she thrived working with faculty and staff in the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment and cultivated a transformational culture. Those are the skills needed to help guide Bennett into its new envisioned future.
When she officially joins Bennett on July 1, Colson hopes to continue building a culture in which students can experience growth and positive transformation and development. She wants to see more Belles launch into their roles as scholars and global leaders in social justice, civil rights, and social mobility. She’s looking forward to experiencing that transformation first-hand.
“Bennett has given me a second chance at a new life to reset, reengage, and recenter my focus on what is meant for me professionally and personally,” said Colson. “Having the opportunity to impart wisdom into other women is a calling I am ready to embrace, and the first step is meeting Bennett students where they are and making sure they successfully hit their mark of academic, professional, and personal growth.”
Colson earned a Bachelor of Arts in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Education degree in curriculum and supervision from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She successfully defended and published her dissertation entitled: “First-Generation Freshman College Students: Factors Impacting Retention for the Subsequent Year” to complete a Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.
Bennett is on the move, and I am proud to be part of history, to serve as the next vice president for academic affairs, integrating an efficient and effective flow of institutional change,” Colson continued.