“I am deeply committed to the success of our students. That is, as Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, I want to ensure that students have the programs and support systems they need to embark on and succeed in their unique educational journeys. . . . I am thrilled to continue collaborating with faculty members and researchers to develop new ideas and initiatives. Overall, it is an honor to enhance the university’s reputation and prestige while achieving our fundamental goals for students, faculty and staff, and the institution as a whole.”
Catching Up With the Vice President for Global Campus
40: That is the number of times that David Lawrence, Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, has traveled since assuming this role in August 2021. Whether it’s by car or by plane, or both, David Lawrence will make the trip to advance the goals of both Michigan Tech and its Global Campus. He is always on the road to seek opportunities, build connections, and initiate partnerships. And he rarely, if ever, skips a beat. As his team can attest, he regularly takes meetings in his car or tucked away in some cubicle in an airport.
Although based in Grand Rapids, remotely-working Lawrence hasn’t had much time to sit still. He has traveled to Detroit, Auburn Hills, Lansing, Traverse City, and Kalamazoo. Furthermore, he has visited the Michigan Tech campus at least twenty times.
Not surprisingly, his work ethic and traveling schedule come with some remarkably early hours. He’s usually up before the birds, in fact. You can find him in his seat by 4:30 am, planning his day, setting up appointments, and getting work done.
What’s more: he maintains this schedule while being a proud father of five children and a devoted husband of thirty years. Impressive indeed.
Putting His Passion for Online Learning to Work
He has always had this drive, too, especially when it comes to online learning. That is, he has long been dedicated to providing students with opportunities to accomplish their educational and professional goals. Early on, he understood how the flexibility of online education could allow students to learn while balancing their families and lives. So it is natural that he is leading the charge on making education attainable, affordable, and accessible for non-traditional students.
Passionate, ambitious, forward-thinking, and productive: these adjectives describe David Lawrence to a tee.
Luckily, I was able to catch up with Lawrence after the beginning of the Spring 2023 semester: one of those rare quieter weeks. The goals: asking him about his past year at the helm of Global Campus and inquiring about his upcoming plans for 2023.
Recalling a Very Busy Year for Global Campus
It’s been a very busy year for you. Congratulations! Could you summarize some of the Global Campus accomplishments and initiatives?
Well, first, I’ll talk about enrollment. Through our various Global Campus initiatives, we’ve increased both online graduate student applications and enrollment. That is, applications are up by 7% for Fall 22 and by over 58% for Spring 23. Also, enrollment grew by 13% for Fall 22 and by 28% for Spring 23. In fact, the Global Campus is approaching 20% of the Graduate School’s enrollment. Professional Development revenue also grew to over $350,000.
Over the past year, I have worked diligently to broaden and diversify our student body. For instance, I’ve led the initiative for our corporate partnership programs, which include our Corporate Education Fellowship Program. The latter allows employees to return to school using Michigan Tech fellowships. It also provides opportunities for working adults to enroll in our programs.
In other words, it’s been a good year, one involving several initiatives at the university. Considerable time has been spent with faculty and chairs to ensure that Michigan Tech is in the best position to be the leading institution in online programs. I’ve collaborated with the Graduate School and the Office of Financial Aid to allow students to apply for and receive financial aid for graduate certificate programs.
Advancing the Interests of Michigan Tech and Global Campus
These are impressive initiatives. Some of these seem directly related to Global Campus whereas others do not. Can you further explain your reasoning for pursuing these projects?
Well, I’ll start with the ones that are related. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) proposals benefit the Global Campus. They especially help the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as APS Labs. Our MEDC partnership aligns directly with the Global Campus goals for graduate certificates and master’s programs.
And then there are the funding opportunities I’ve participated in. That is, I was involved in two statewide initiatives led by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). They were for the automotive industry and the upcoming semiconductor onshoring plan. Both of these initiatives will bring funding and new students to the university. For instance, for the automotive one, we’ve already been chosen for a $165,000 grant for education.
Moving Beyond Siloed Initiatives
At the same time, I understand the importance of non-siloed work that benefits the entire organization. For example, the Global Campus partnered internally with APS Mobile Labs and externally with Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) in the Propulsion Systems Readiness Program (PReP). Though unrelated to Global Campus, this program does support our undergraduate students. The PReP allows 4th and 5th-year Michigan Tech students to begin a specialized education program, receive scholarships and internships, and begin a career pathway at Stellantis. Additionally, the Henry Ford Corporate Partnership also reaches out to undergraduate students. It provides scholarships and allow them to attend MTU.
I do believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. What we pursue at Global Campus ends up going beyond it: supporting many other departments and forwarding the progress of the university’s goals. That is, our Global Campus initiatives leverage new and existing relationships and ensure that Michigan Tech maintains its national prominence.
Remembering Rewarding Experiences
Describe some of your favorite moments and experiences of 2022.
One of the best moments of the year was signing the Corporate Education Fellowship Agreement at Nexteer Automotive. With partnerships like these, we are able to create pathways for employees to pursue Michigan Tech’s graduate programs. We had an impressive number of attendees at our presentations, too. And, of course, spending time on Nexteer’s test track and touring their facility were fun. Nexteer has enrolled five new employees for our spring semester and we have over fifteen applications in for future semesters.
Also, working with the Advanced Power Research Labs to advance the customized training initiative for companies such as Stellantis and Borg Warner has been rewarding. It is an honor and a joy to see employees beginning their education through professional development at Michigan Tech. In fact, over 150 employees from Stellantis and BorgWarner have been through the Mobile Lab training program during 2022.
It was an honor to meet the army chief of staff while I was with the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Houghton. We discussed how Michigan Tech’s education and training could positively impact our National Defense system. I also enjoyed touring Advanced Power System (APS) Labs and visiting the Keweenaw Research Center. Meeting with President Koubek about how Global Campus contributes to Michigan Tech’s mission and vision was, and always is, gratifying.
Collaborating With the Michigan Tech Community
What Michigan Tech community members have you worked with to advance Global Campus initiatives?
There are almost too many people to mention. I mean, so many people have contributed their hours and their expertise to our initiatives. Still, I will name a few: Dave Reed, Vice President for Research; Andrew Storer, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Will Cantrell, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School. They have all helped advance our objectives.
And several deans have also contributed to Global Campus initiatives. Dean Callahan, Dean Hemmer, Dean Johnson, and Dean Livesay have all been collaborators. Department chairs, such as Jason Blough, Jin Choi, Dan Fuhrmann, John Irwin, Audra Morse, and Jiguang Sun have also supported in and/or led our projects. Then there are the faculty, such as Glen Archer and Guy Hembroff; and the graduate program chairs, which include Paul Bergstrom and Wayne Weaver. In addition, Jay Meldrum (Keweenaw Research Center); and Jeff Naber, Jeremy Worm, and his fine staff at APS Mobile Labs have also been indispensable.
Working Remotely With a Small Team
You’re a remote (but extremely well-traveled vice president) who also has a remote team. Can you say a little about your team and how do they advance the goals and initiatives of Global Campus?
Our small, but mighty and dedicated team comprises Jacque Smith, Director of Graduate School Operations and Enrollment Services; Amanda Irwin, Enrollment Manager; and Shelly Galliah, Marketing and Content Manager.
While devoted to the Graduate School, Jacque Smith has significantly contributed to Global Campus. He has provided advice, direction, and support from its inception to its current state. His experience is indispensable. He knows everyone and is respected, if not loved, by many in the Michigan Tech community.
Amanda Irwin, who began in February of 2022, contributes extensive enrollment experience from both a private university and a community college. Residing in Midland, Michigan, Amanda assists students from the initial inquiry through to the program and registration processes. Her strengths are working with all types of students, making them feel at ease, comprehending their goals, and guiding them toward success.
Shelly Galliah, who began in May 2022, resides in Hancock but works from home. She has held various positions at Tech for the past decade. Holding a Ph.D. from the Humanities Department, Shelly has experience designing and leading online courses, writing professional and technical communication, evaluating countless documents, and teaching MTU students. She writes, researches, and copy edits all kinds of communications for Global Campus.
Leading With Trust and Vision
In your opinion, what is essential for a remote team working together successfully?
Trust is definitely fundamental to remote work. Possessing high-quality individuals who work with dedication and initiative allows the university to have the best employees possible and create the optimal working environment.
The dynamics of working together are complex but rewarding. They include trusting each other, communicating clearly, understanding goals, prioritizing tasks, and focusing on short- and long-term strategies and initiatives. Working remotely can be challenging, but it also creates skills that will be definitely be in high demand in the future, such as conducting productive brainstorming sessions, holding productive virtual meetings, and fostering teamwork.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
What are some of the more challenging aspects of your job?
Well, I would say that one of the most challenging aspects of my position is spreading awareness about the benefits of online education and about Global Campus itself. Although online education is not new, it is newer in some areas of Michigan Tech.
Location is so important to our identity as a university. Therefore, it is often difficult for prospective students to see Tech as offering that same rigorous, high-quality education online. Another associated challenge is determining which programs can be delivered online.
I noticed you didn’t mention the traveling. Surely, that has to be tough. What advice can you give to those who travel regularly?
Traveling is just a part of my job; it’s not really a challenge if you’re prepared for it. Still, my travel advice is to plan, plan, plan. The rigorous schedule, demands, and expectations of the meetings, as well as the outcomes that must result from the meetings, can sometimes make travel difficult. My advice for frequent travelers is quite simple: stay focused, have a plan, and get follow-up afterward. Ensure that the meetings you attend are necessary and cannot be accomplished in a remote venue.
Also, make sure that your family and close associates know and support your schedule. Being prepared to delegate while traveling will allow you to be more productive. I would recommend sticking to a schedule and routine that allows you to take care of your health and that provides mental breaks
Looking Forward to 2023
Considering your past successes and your future goals, what parts of your job or initiatives are you most passionate about? And why?
I remain deeply committed to the success of our students. That is, as Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, I want to ensure that students have the programs and support systems they need to embark on and succeed in their unique educational journeys. I am very passionate about establishing internal partnerships with university departments and external ones with organizations, associations, and nonprofits. Lastly, I am thrilled to continue collaborating with faculty members and researchers to develop new ideas and initiatives. Overall, it is an honor to enhance the university’s reputation and prestige while achieving our fundamental goals for students, faculty and staff, and the institution as a whole.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It is gratifying to hear the stories of our alumni, visit corporations with Tech connections and tour their facilities, and observe MTU’s impact on the state, the nation, and beyond. These experiences not only make me proud of the university but also inspire me to advocate for the university and spread the good news about our achievements.
Whether it is through increasing enrollment, developing initiatives, or building partnerships, I look forward to promoting and growing Global Campus in Michigan, the United States, and, of course, the world.