Meet COCC’s New President

For Dr. Laurie Chesley, collaboration is more than a function of getting things done—it's an ever-present mindset.

"I truly believe Hannah Arendt's assertion that excellence requires the presence of others," says Central Oregon Community College's sixth president. "Learning, invention, progress—they all happen in context and in community. Teams of people with diverse talents and experiences come up with better ideas and solutions than individuals working alone." As Chesley begins her tenure at COCC, she sees collaboration as the essential thread of the College, from student success and mentorship to inclusion and shared governance.

A first-generation college graduate, Chesley has spent her entire career in higher education. After earning her master's and Ph.D. in English from the University of Notre Dame (where she met her late-husband of 28 years, Brent), she went on to become an English professor, specializing in 18th century British literature and teaching to diverse student populations.

Her career ultimately grew into the administrative side, where, for the past 18 years, she has held a series of executive posts with increasing roles of leadership at both four-year and two-year colleges. Most recently, she served as the provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs at Grand Rapids Community College.

"I was attracted to COCC by the history and quality of the institution," she says. "COCC embodies a longstanding and heartfelt commitment to serving students and the greater community. That ethic of service is important to me."

A recipient of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Faculty Excellence Award and a past winner of the Michigan Chapter of the American Council of Education Network's Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership Award, Chesley is passionate about mentoring the leaders of tomorrow.

Born in Michigan, she's a fan of classic cars, traveling, cycling, and all things "Dexter" (her cat, that is).

Favorite quote
"You must do the thing you think you cannot do." – Eleanor Roosevelt

Favorite book
"You can't ask an English teacher to choose one favorite book!"

On her must-watch list
"The Tour de France."

On her must-do list
"I would love to take a cycling vacation in Europe some day."

Classic appreciation
"We've been to quite a few automobile museums in the U.S. and Europe, as well as several Formula One races. My husband was a great fan of Ferrari, and I became one as well. In my view, the most beautiful Ferraris are the ‘62 GTO and the ‘57 Testa Rossa."


COCC President, Dr. Laurie Chesley