If you call Laurie Stanell, the first thing you’ll hear is the Blue Band’s famous rendition of “The Nittany Lion” as her ringback. But that’s only the beginning of her love for Penn State, and part of what’s propelled her to run for Board of Trustees.
Long before Stanell graduated from Penn State in 1980, she was already part of a quintessential “Penn State family.” Her grandfather and both her parents attended Penn State, as did her two brothers. Years later, her daughter Kendall graduated from Penn State in 2010, and her son Thomas is expected to graduate next week.
When she wasn’t elected in a previous Board of Trustees race, Stanell chose to take her services to Penn State’s Alumni Council, learning how the university works while attending Board of Trustees meetings.
“I’ve never given up trying to get the Board of Trustees changed,” Stanell said, explaining how she’s seen the alumni-elected trustees “squelched” time and time again by the other appointed members of the board.
For this reason, she vehemently supports legislation recently introduced in Pennsylvania’s state legislature, which would reduce the size of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, require trustees and some employees to file statements of financial interest under Pennsylvania’s Ethics Act, and expand the extent of public documents available under the state’s Right-to-Know law.
“The only way this is ever going to change is through government,” Stanell said. “They have their heels dug in so far to keep it the way it is, they increased the size of the board a few years ago and made it even harder for the alumni to have a voice, and it’ll never change unless legislature gets involved — and thank God it hopefully will.”
On a Board of Trustees so often criticized for its lack of diversity, Stanell is the only female candidate on this year’s ballot.
“I want women to feel empowered. There needs to be more women on the board,” Stanell said. “I feel empowered and hopefully I can be a role model to the young women that are out there, to say, ‘Listen, we need to do this. We need to represent.’ It’s who we are and what we should be doing. It’s who I am.”
Through it all, Stanell has prioritized her mentorship of current students and maintaining her strong connection with Penn State in any way possible.
“I always like to keep that connection, because it is always a good thing to be connected to the students and know exactly what they need,” Stanell said. “If you lose touch of that, then you’re not going to be able to help them in any way.”
Colleagues have applauded her for speaking her mind in the name of Penn State, and she hopes to use this confidence to advocate for tuition control, gender equity and diversity on the Board of Trustees, legislative reform for transparency, and prioritizing the university’s commonwealth campuses. As a former Panhellenic Council vice president, Stanell also hopes to bring positive change to Greek life, so long as it follows the Greek community’s longstanding history of positively contributing to Penn State.
“I answer to no one. I’m a dentist. I’m self-employed. I don’t work for a corporation. I have no hidden agenda. I don’t have an ego that fills up a room. I just want to help Penn State, and that’s why I’m there,” Stanell said.
“You can say whatever you want, and I’ll just keep saying what’s best for Penn State and keep pushing for what’s best for Penn State. My ego’s not going to get in the way. That’s how I know I can make a great difference, because I’m a lot different that most people who are on the board.”