Q&A Fall 2014

Diana Lawson

by Dottie Barnes

photo by Amanda Pitts

Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business, has been on the job since July. She served as dean and professor of marketing at the Herberger Business School at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota before coming to Grand Valley.

After earning degrees in exercise physiology and working in industry, Lawson began her academic career. She spoke with Grand Valley Magazine’s Dottie Barnes about the switch in professions and why she believes teaching will dramatically change in 10 years.

GVM: You earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise physiology and sports medicine. I take it business was not your original career path.

Lawson: My passion was exercise physiology. It has always been a fascination of mine: how the body works. I became a nationally certified athletic trainer after college. At that time, there were fewer than 200 women in the U.S. with that certification. I still give advice about diet and exercise and help people understand realistic goals.

Diana Lawson

Diana Lawson

GVM: When did you realize you wanted to switch careers?

Lawson: After receiving my first master’s degree, I got a job as a fitness director for Norwegian Cruise Line. I was exposed to people from different cultures; most of the staff came from other countries. After a year-and-a-half, I decided to go into corporate fitness, but it was difficult to find a job. I got an MBA to help break into that field. My international business experiences with the cruise line influenced my decision to focus on business, and I went on to earn a doctorate in marketing with a minor in international business.

GVM: What was life like on the cruise ship?

Lawson: I loved the international piece. I learned a lot during that experience that helps me today. As part of the staff I had to sing and dance in a show every week — 55 cruises worth. I learned to troubleshoot and interact with people in small and large groups. I tell students that regardless of what you are doing, you are learning from those experiences and building skills.

GVM: Where has your love for travel taken you?

Lawson: I started my academic career at the University of Maine updating the international business curriculum and building partnerships with universities in other countries. While there, I took students to France. I still teach in France every year. I have also taught in Istanbul and Moldova. My husband and I like to travel in the southwest U.S. and internationally.

GVM: What was it about Grand Valley that interested you?

Lawson: The university is young and, therefore, more nimble. The university has figured out a faster way to operationalize opportunities. Grand Valley has also had long-standing presidents and that consistency in leadership is really important. The level of community support and engagement here is rare — it’s like having a whole bunch of caring relatives.

GVM: What are your goals for the business college?

Lawson: The programs are very strong in Seidman. Short term, we need to highlight the competitive advantages for all of our programs. Long term, Grand Valley, and higher education in general, has to figure out how we change the way we help students learn. Students are changing. The way they learn is changing and the demands on their lives are changing. Students have another life outside the classroom that is more involved and more active. We have to figure out ways to facilitate student learning and how students can complete their degrees within their busy lifestyles. Three hours a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 15 weeks a semester is not the future. It’s not going to be that way in 10 years and we have to start looking at that now.

GVM: Do you have any hobbies?

Lawson: I’m a hand quilter. I started in the mid ’80s when the woman next door to me invited me to a quilting class. I really liked it. It’s very relaxing for me. It takes me a few years to complete a project because I do everything by hand. I usually give quilts as gifts.

About Lawson

• Lawson worked at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid as a spotter on the downhill ski run and as a timer for the bobsled event.

• France is Lawson’s favorite place to travel. She can get around Paris more easily than New York City or Chicago.

• Lawson enjoys bright colors and has always been known for wearing red, pink or orange. She has added Laker blue to her wardrobe.

• She and her husband have owned three St. Bernards. Their current St. Bernard, Luciana, is 5.

Page last modified November 6, 2014