Laurie Stanell Advocates For Transparency & Diversity On Penn State’s Board Of Trustees

Laurie Stanell is a fourth-generation Penn Stater who has remained connected to the university since she graduated in 1980. After founding her own dental practice in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, Stanell began mentoring students in the Eberly College of Science.

Stanell was elected to Penn State’s Board of Trustees by the alumni effective July 1, 2018, and is now seeking reelection. After serving on several board committees, including Academic Affairs, she’s now among six candidates who are running for three available positions.

Onward State sat down with Stanell to learn more about her campaign, goals, and plans for the board if she’s re-elected.

She first noted that her relationship with Penn State has remained so strong because of how much it gave her and her family. Stanell’s dental career was started in Happy Valley while both of her brothers found success after attending the university.

“I stayed close to the university because it gave me so much. There were a few years there when I was in dental school and then started my own practice where I wasn’t able to be involved,” Stanell said. “Eventually, I started going back to football games and took my daughter to some Blue-White games…I stayed coming back to Penn State, and once my daughter was in, I started mentoring students in Eberly in 2005.”

As much as she loves Penn State, Stanell said she has no shortage of initiatives she wants to take on if elected. Lowering tuition rates and making the university more affordable overall is at the top of her list.

“There’s talk of raising the tuition this year, and that’s not gonna happen on my watch,” Stanell said. “All of us that are running talk about that, but I’m a fighter…I’m not about to back down on these things that mean so much.”

Stanell noted that Penn State needs to be run “a lot different than it has been.” She explained that the university should be more focused on expediting the dorm renovation process, namely in East Halls, rather than investing money into other complexes such as the Arboretum.

In Stanell’s opinion, the first step in making Penn State a more affordable institution will come with a new president. Penn State President Eric Barron plans to retire in June 2022, and Stanell has a clear idea of what kind of traits the university’s next leader should have.

“It’s a hybrid between research in the university and running it more like a business. There has to be more accountability,” Stanell said. “The person needs to have a wonderful persona that represents Penn State. I’m not saying that’s not happening now, but maybe it’s not…Not so much from the academic world, but from another place — maybe business.”

She added that “overflow in administration” needs to be dealt with, while more needs to be done to focus on making Penn State an attractive university to attend rather than raising tuition rates.

“We need to have a president that comes in who’s eloquent and well-spoken,” Stanell said. “Who has a persona of, ‘I’m in control. I love Penn State and everything about it, and I want to take Penn State to the next level.'”

If she is re-elected, Stanell will also continue to advocate for gender and racial diversity on the Board of Trustees. She noted that some of her efforts to do so haven’t been successful, as she tried to nominate a person of color to the board this year but was “shot down.”

“That really upset me. I didn’t make it public, but I am now, and I’m not gonna say who it was,” Stanell said. “That’s a true story. But that’s what I’ll do. I’ll nominate people. I have mentors who are of color that I’m still in touch with, women that I’m friends with that are Penn Staters.

“It seems like they talk the talk and don’t walk the walk,” Stanell added. “By 2025, you want to be 50% diverse — it’s 2021. You don’t have many elections to do this.”

Overall, Stanell wants more transparency on the university’s end. In making Penn State more affordable, she feels the administration needs to be more clear about how it will try and attract more prospective students. Stanell also notes that a more diverse group of voices on the board should help foster these changes.

Voting for this year’s trustee election will close at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 6. Eligible alumni can request ballots through this online form.

Editor’s note: Stanell’s interview is the latest in a multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check back this week to read more about the six candidates vying for spots on the board this election cycle.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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