I sat down in the auditorium for a parent orientation session–this time not as the keynote speaker or college parenting expert, but as a mom. A mom who was launching her youngest child. A mom who knows all-too-well the bittersweet feeling of letting go.
Then SHE walked on the stage, her warm smile and bright eyes calming the nervous parents in the room. She spoke from her heart, sprinkling in stories about raising her own kids, and delivering a much needed dose of reality and empowerment. She was spot-on in addressing questions and gracious in offering advice. This real life wonder woman wowed me! She was kind-hearted, passionate, professional, caring, sincere, and definitely F-U-N. Her name? Dr. Lisa Erwin, Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Dean of Students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Since that day, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Lisa better and I continue to be impressed by her level of commitment to her students and staff. She encourages personal growth, responsibility and accountability. She understands the value of mistakes and life lessons. And she values connections, which is abundantly clear as she interacts with students.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman…Dr. Lisa Erwin!
KR: Hi Lisa! Tell us about what brings you joy and fulfillment.
LE: I love working with college students – it is truly an honor to be part of a student’s journey through college. In addition, my students give me a tremendous sense of hope for the future. It’s common to hear negatives about the current generation of young people, but that’s just not my experience. They are bright, passionate, thoughtful, and hardworking – they inspire me every day.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
LE: One of my favorite quotes is from Diane Sawyer, who said: “There is no substitute for paying attention.” I try to live in the moment, to read between the lines (or not!), and to be present with others. Those efforts lead to greater understanding of another’s point of view and how they are showing up. Everyone, EVERYONE carries burdens and pain. By paying attention, I can walk beside someone in community.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
LE: My mentor is Dr. Dorothy Knoll, a Student Affairs super-human. I met her when I was a Masters graduate student. Here’s what I learned from Dorothy – I learned that the point is not to “have it all.” The point is to be your most authentic self, and live for the things that bring you joy. Dorothy modeled motherhood and working in ways that were so important for me.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
LE: I would not be a muggle, I would be a witch who attended Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sorted into the Horned Serpent House (the house of the mind).
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
LE: I would tell myself to enjoy fully every single moment of my sons’ childhoods. I would tell myself to breathe deeply and to learn to let things go.