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For Susan L. MacLaurin, first year as trustee reaffirms strength of the Adler community

Stories | 01.30.24

Editor’s note: Adler University’s Board of Trustees are the stewards and ambassadors of the University, ensuring its growth and its mission in training socially responsible practitioners. In this new series, Around the Table with Trustees, we’ll meet some of the diverse and passionate individuals who make up the Board and learn about their background, approach to leadership, and their hopes for the University’s future.

Image of the Around the Table with Trustees series logOne after another, students spoke on the microphone. They shared their personal stories — from why they chose to attend Adler University to the careers they hope to pursue afterward —acknowledging those who have helped them along the way.

A student spoke about the high-need communities they plan to serve after graduation. Another about policies they hope to change. Others simply shared their goals of becoming better practitioners.

Listening in the crowd during the inaugural Vancouver Scholarship Award Reception on a November afternoon, Adler Board of Trustees member Susan MacLaurin says she deeply felt inspired.

As MacLaurin looks back over her first year on the Board, she’s sharing why — despite some universal challenges in the higher education landscape — she is confident that Adler is poised for a successful future.

“For me, meeting students, including at the scholarship reception and recent graduation, is motivating and a highlight of board engagement,” said MacLaurin. “These conversations reinforce that the sense of community responsibility at Adler is strong and on the rise.”

Group photo of the Vancouver Scholarship Award Reception

Susan MacLaurin celebrates with students, donors, and the Adler community during the inaugural Vancouver Scholarship Award Reception, held November 2023.

An easy ‘yes’

Five years before becoming a trustee, MacLaurin said she strongly believed in the work at Adler.

“Vancouver has a very deep and strong need for the expertise Adler’s students and faculty share in our local community,” said MacLaurin, who is based in Canada and a proud Canadian. “Before I joined the Board, I sought to support the University because I knew it was educating incredible people committed to be a positive force to the residents of Vancouver and beyond.”

She learned of the University through Joy MacPhail, who served as the first Vancouver-based Board chair from 2018-22.

“It was exciting to collaborate with Joy and the Adler team on recognizing student excellence,” she said.

When MacLaurin was asked to join the Board by President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., the answer came quickly even if the invitation was a surprise.

“It was an immediate yes,” she said. “While Dr. Crossman was very considerate in his approach, I so profoundly believe in what the Adler team does and how it does it, that I wanted to proactively volunteer my time and any experience I might offer. In doing so, I also continue to always make Adler one of my top giving priorities.”

Canadian sensibility

MacLaurin brings close to 40 years of experience in real estate pension plan management, private real estate development, and commissioned real estate sales.

She recently retired as chief communications officer at QuadReal, a global real estate company based in Vancouver with assets under management of $70 billion (Canadian). Her responsibilities had included building and fortifying internal and external communications and stewarding employee engagement and culture. She also currently serves as chair of the CARE Canada Board, an organization working around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice.

In October 2023, MacLaurin was honored by Vancouver’s business and philanthropic community for her long list of professional and personal achievements, specifically as a catalyst for change in her commitment to advancing women in the industry.

“I’m a very proud Canadian,” said MacLaurin, who is one of three Canadians currently on the Board. “We have what I refer to as our Canadian sensibility. Even though as citizens we have many challenges to navigate, there are things that are fundamental to being Canadian that align well with Adler’s mission. These include welcoming people from other places and nurturing community partnerships to strengthen support and opportunities for as many people as possible.”

MacLaurin earned an MBA from the University of Toronto. For her undergraduate education, she attended Bryn Mawr College, a liberal arts school outside of Philadelphia with a long-established graduate school of social work. She graduated in 1984.

“My appreciation for social work, social justice, and the work of dedicated counsellors was informed while I was an undergraduate,” she said.

MacLaurin returned to Bryn Mawr to serve as a trustee, serving on its investment committee, which manages the school’s endowment. She served for 20 years before becoming a Trustee Emeritus.

“My experience at Bryn Mawr taught me the importance of partnerships and collaborations and leveraging the talent available within one’s own extended family for the betterment of students, faculty, staff, and alums,” MacLaurin said. “That sense of the possible — as well as the practical — is what I hope I can contribute to the Board at Adler.”

Photo of Vancouver graduate

Adler’s heart and soul were in full display during the most recent Vancouver Campus commencement ceremony, where MacLaurin celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments and which invited LGBTQ+ and refugee advocate Danny Ramadan as keynote speaker.

Heart and soul

Regarding her fellow trustees, MacLaurin considers them as part of the most engaged and collaborative Board she has ever joined.

“In the best sense of the word, it’s one of the most demanding boards to which to contribute because of the quality of the experience of the people around the table,” she said. “Each member brings a depth of perspective and passion. The idea sharing and planning is next level.”

MacLaurin added that she has formed great friendships and relationships with many of the trustees.

“Each trustee does their homework, they come prepared to listen and contribute, and they’re open-minded to the ideas of others,” she said. “It’s an extraordinarily devoted group of people. So, when I join in, I know I need to bring my very best.”

Many think that a Board’s work is only focused on the finances of the institution, MacLaurin said.

“Financial health is a big part of it. Yes, that’s true. We want to bring in what I would call ‘friends of Adler’ who help enhance, fund, and support our programs,” she said. “However, a University like Adler needs to continue to have a soul. It needs to have a heart. That comes from a sense of community and commitment to values. Our decisions as trustees need to result in bringing in and supporting the very best for students, staff, and faculty who make it distinctive and defining in the work.”

That heart and soul were in full display during the Adler’s most recent commencement ceremony in Vancouver, where MacLaurin celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments and which invited LGBTQ+ and refugee advocate Danny Ramadan as keynote speaker. It was also present during the Vancouver Scholarship Award Reception, which celebrated the diverse groups of scholarship recipients, many of whom were recognized for their social justice-related work.

“The students I met underscore the need for us to celebrate our differences and similarities,” MacLaurin said. “And that commitment makes us all stronger in the process.”

The chance to interact with the Adler community, including celebrating student accomplishments, is among MacLaurin’s favorite responsibilities as a trustee.

“I believe that the quality of our decision-making and strategy planning is enhanced by the relationships we form with our students, alums, the leadership of Adler, its staff, and faculty,” said MacLaurin. “The commencement ceremonies and reception were special reminders that we are a mighty institution. And that’s because of the mighty people who make up every part of the global Adler community.”

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