After seven years at the University of Portland, Director of the Moreau Center for Service and Justice, Laurie Laird, left UP on Nov. 4, 2022.
Laird’s role at the Moreau Center has yet to be filled but the new Executive Director of Mission and Ministry Fr. Peter Walsh will oversee the role in the meantime.
Walsh's role in heading the Moreau Center comes in conjunction with a restructuring of the Student Affairs division and strengthening the connection between Campus Ministry and the Moreau Center. However, the university is still planning on hiring a successor for Laird's role in the upcoming future.
Laird’s time at UP has spanned nearly a decade of work in the Moreau Center, a job she considered an important one.
“I feel like we've done some really good work that centered on justice and was guided by Catholic school teaching,” Laird said. “I feel proud of some of the things that we've been able to create together.”
Growing up in Southern California, Laird made her way up the coast after high school, living in the Bay Area for about 30 years before moving to Portland. She hopes to stay in Portland after leaving UP.
On why she is choosing to leave, Laird felt as though it was time for her work at UP had come to an end.
“I discerned that it's time for me to continue my work for justice elsewhere,” Laird said. “I'm not sure where that will be or exactly what is next, but I'm hopeful that my next opportunity will allow me to continue to learn and to contribute meaningfully to important social change.”
While Laird’s decision was a difficult one to make, she values the support received from most of her colleges at the Moreau Center.
“I've received support from other colleagues and students across campus that I've really appreciated,” Laird said.
Sophie Charles, program manager at the Moreau Center, recalls fond memories of working with Laird during the three years they overlapped.
“I really appreciated, as a staff person, her always wanting to have the input of her staff in helping to shape the direction of our work together,” Charles said. “She always really valued the expertise that we each brought to the role and was so good at providing support.”
Sophomore Grace Keefe described Laird’s role in training her during her start in the Rural Immersion Coordinator role she has now. Working at the Moreau Center as a student, Keefe views the staff as her favorite part of being involved with the group.
“Everyone is super nice, and not just nice, but kind,” Keefe said. “They care about stuff, that's why they work at the Moreau center. I think my favorite part has been getting to meet such amazing people like Laurie.”
Despite the accolades from her peers, not all reactions to her departure have been supportive.
“There are ways in which I haven't felt supported by individuals and systems and processes,” Laird said. “And I think that that is part of the experience, too.”
Laird chose not to disclose further on the lack of support from certain processes yet reaffirmed her decision to depart from the university.
“I think sometimes change comes when you're not expecting it,” Laird said. “You sort of have to pay attention to your inner voice and use that to guide you as you make a decision about what you choose to do.”
Looking back throughout her seven years at UP, Laird’s dedication to and passion for justice came into prominence as she oversaw staff at the Moreau Center.
“I think that she really did a lot to evolve the Moreau center in the direction of being about justice too and I'm proud to be associated with that,” Charles said.
Despite the position remaining unfilled, Laird knows that her team is what makes the Moreau Center thrive, and credits her work throughout her time there as a collaborative effort between staff and students.
“I always think of the work of the Moreau Center as not about one person, it's about all of us, and particularly the students that are a part of our work,” Laird said. “Anything that has unfolded in the time that I've been here has really been the collective work of all of the people who make the Moreau Center thrive and grow.”
Kate Cuadrado is the News and Managing Editor of The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.