Lined with books, papers, and desks, Ansin 303 is not much different from other Emerson offices.
The woman who works there, however, is not as common to Emerson as the room may suggest.
Lori Beth Way is conducting her American Council on Education (ACE) fellowship at Emerson, and is the faculty member who occupies that space. Since coming to the college in July, Way has provided training to Emerson’s sexual assault response team and has worked closely with President M. Lee Pelton regarding his gun control initiative.
Her main charge, however, is leading a search committee for an associate vice president of academic affairs for internationalization and global engagement.
“The goal is to ultimately take what I’ve learned here, and see what works well in terms of leadership, and apply that to my career development,” she said about her fellowship.
Way holds a doctorate in political science and is a full time professor at California State University (CSU), Chico, where she has been teaching criminal justice and political science since 1999, when she was only 25. She was also a co-chairwoman of the school’s General Education Implementation Team and the university’s Curriculum Committee, where she worked to redesign CSU Chico’s general education academic structure.
Her work qualified her for an ACE fellowship, and she was nominated by CSU Chico’s President Dr. Paul J. Zingg. She was selected to be one of the 54 fellows in February 2012, she said.
During her fellowship, Way is still employed by CSU Chico, because her absence is similar to a sabbatical year, she said.
ACE fellows each help the president of one college or university with whatever is on the president’s agenda and in areas that help them gain knowledge and experience for their own careers, said Andrea Hamos, interim director of the ACE Emerging Leaders Group and the ACE Fellows Program.
“We all have different projects across the country, and some of it is based on interest, [and] some of it is based off of what the college needs,” Way said.
She said she selected Emerson for her fellowship because she was drawn to Pelton’s core values and his vision for Emerson since tacking office in 2011.
“He sees education as a social good, a public good,” she said. “He sees the presidency as a place where you can work towards change.”
Way said she also liked the size of Emerson compared to CSU Chico, which has a total enrollment of 16,470, according to the university’s website.
“I wanted to go somewhere that was different,” she said. “Emerson is really different. It’s small, it’s private [and] it’s specialized with arts and communication.”
Way said she studied communication as an undergraduate at The College of New Jersey.
“She’s very smart, and very knowledgeable,” Pelton said about Way in a previous interview. “All of us here really are very fortunate she’s here with us this year, because she’s been a great contributor, a significant contributor, to the college this past year.”
A typical day varies for Way, and is split between meeting with Pelton, traveling to conferences, and visiting other Boston schools with other fellows, where they learn about how different institutions operate, she said.
“If there’s something [the school is] typically known for, we might learn about that,” Way said.
At Emerson, Way said Pelton asked her to help with his global initiative, which he outlined in his inauguration speech on Sept. 14. and she has been working on it since she came to Emerson in the summer.
In a document Way is working on for the college, Way wrote that the globalization plan will work to establish the college as the world’s leading institution in communication and the arts, and help Emerson students understand different cultures to help them succeed in a diverse world. The initiative also adheres to the U.S. Department of Education’s priority to help students gain the skills they will need in a worldwide economy, according to the document.
The associate vice president for academic affairs for internationalization and global engagement will arrange exchange programs with foreign colleges and help Emerson faculty internationalize its curricula.
“I think that the idea [with the global initiative] is to help students draw up intercultural skills and have historical context,” Way said.
In addition to her work searching for a new administrator, Way has provided Pelton with research on gun violence for his civic engagement initiative, which includes his planned discussions about firearm regulations, as well as training to the Emerson sexual assault response team. She is also working with the creators of an online tool called Maken, a website that helps filmmakers collaborate on projects, to establish a partnership with Emerson, which will be the first the site has with a college or university.
Before she leaves Emerson in May, Way said she also wants to learn more about the Emerson admission and enrollment process, since enrollment requirements for prospective students are different at Emerson than public schools like CSU, according to Way.
She said that her time at Emerson has reminded her about what she wants to keep doing with her career in higher education.
“I don’t know exactly what that next job is,” she said, “but I know that I really enjoy working with faculty, students, and staff to kind of make wherever I am a better place.”