“Economics is a way in which you understand systems,” said Lawrence. “It helped me understand oppression; it helped me understand poverty; it helped me understand why society works the way it does, and who benefits from it and who loses. And once I understood it, you could actually figure out how economic policy can help change that.”
Lawrence graduated from the University of Delhi and completed her doctorate at Purdue University. Her teaching career kicked off after that – she joined the University of Minnesota Morris faculty, where she earned the UMAA Teaching Award. She later served as a dean and chief academic officer at Augustana College, where she worked before transitioning to the all-women Hollins University (HU) in Roanoke, VA.
Lawrence recently published Life History of Women Panchayat Sarpanches from Haryana, India, a book that tells the stories of ten female village leaders in rural Haryana and how changes in legislation affected them.
The HU Board of Trustees wanted a president who would focus on women’s empowerment but also remain true to the university’s academic goals and principles.
“We were intent on recruiting a president who is devoted to women’s education and the liberal arts, and is a proven leader and strategic thinker,” said Judy Lambeth, chair of the HU Board of Trustees. “We wanted to find an individual who embodies the values we hold dear at Hollins and can also inspire us to advance the institution even further. Pareena has all these characteristics, together with boundless energy and optimism.”
Lawrence’s economic experience influences everything she does, including how she approaches her position as the HU president. In her inaugural address, she incorporated ideas from her field of study to explain how students could help improve society.
“We were late to the realization that we don’t move the demand curve by moving the supply curve,” explained Lawrence. “We move the demand curve by moving the hearts and minds, the dreams and aspirations, of the people around us.”
Lawrence also sought to remind her audience that, as president, she would help women become successful leaders.
“I want you to join me to build the Hollins of tomorrow so that we can continue the noble purpose of educating women who lead lives of consequence,” she said.
Lawrence has already left a legacy at other institutions and will continue making strides at Hollins University as she helps women enter the world feeling empowered and important.
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