We’re taking a moment to bring back an amazing article written about an amazing woman in our 2021 Fall issue. The phenomenal Vice President for Community and Government Relations, Laraine Davis, of Maryville University! Let’s look back on her success which is still in motion and true to her mission, still today.ML Hunt, Delux Magazine Editor-In-Chief
Laraine Davis reflects on her own authenticity and determination to dismantle the status quo
When Laraine Davis was growing up, she and her two brothers were the only Black students at their predominantly white Catholic school.
Years later, Davis serves as Vice President for Community and Government Relations at Maryville University with the purpose to increase access and opportunity to high-quality education for underserved populations. In doing so, Davis embraces her grit to break down barriers and level the playing field for minority communities and businesses.
“There are many assumptions made about a person just based on where they received their education,” said Davis. “My parents worked really hard and made a lot of sacrifices to send us to Catholic School, but we were not rich.The lack of representation within that community became a huge driver for me to make a difference and advocate for equitable access to education and workforce development.”
Davis joined Maryville University after a 17-year tenure with Wells Fargo Advisors. During her time at the company, she worked on building strategic partnerships across Wells Fargo to serve those communities most in need.
While working in Community Relations, Davis led the development of the Wells Fargo Finance Education Center at Harris Stowe State University which features a real time trading floor. She successfully worked with the St. Louis Public Schools and the Missouri Council for Economic Education to map Wells Fargo’s “Hands on Banking” into the middle school curriculum. She also coordinated Wells Fargo’s outreach efforts in the metro area for many nonprofits and schools.
When her husband came across the posted position for her current role at the university, she never considered a job in higher education, but he knew she would be a great fit and encouraged her to apply.
“I have a great husband and he’s such a motivator for me with terrific support,” said Davis. “He said that I should look into the position because he thought I would be great in the role. I had developed many connections over the years as an alumnus, attending and supporting local events and even being a recipient of their 2020 Spirit of Maryville Awards. I’m always looking for the best opportunities for the University and the students, faculty, and staff.”
Davis is a graduate of Maryville University, where she majored in psychology.
“I was a nontraditional student and the online program at Maryville was far more advanced than other universities and gave me the opportunity to complete my degree,” said Davis. “But I was equally impressed with the Maryville Works program which focuses on corporate education by developing an online curriculum based on a company’s needs to both up-skill and re-skill new and existing talent. Having spent many years in corporate America, I knew immediately that there was a tremendous opportunity for Maryville to grow this program and I wanted to be a part of this exciting work.”
Davis is a highly-respected community and government relations professional with over 23 years of bridging valuable community relationships, as well as a keen understanding of the workforce development and educational needs of businesses and communities in the region.
“Maryville University recently announced our partnerships with Keeley Companies and RUNG for Women as just two of the many efforts to help build capacity and expansion for businesses in St. Louis,” said Davis. “ It just makes sense for Maryville to utilize our expertise in designing curriculum via online learning to help keep our companies and ultimately our communities thriving and growing.”
In addition to leading the university’s community and government relations efforts, Davis will also provide executive oversight for the development and alumni relations division that promotes Maryville’s strategic plan to key constituencies with the objective of raising friends and funds.
Throughout her career, Davis reflects on navigating the personal challenges of being a Black female leader.
“We’re told to bring our full selves to the office, to engage in frank conversations, and to tell personal stories as a way of gaining our colleagues’ trust and improving group performance. People are drawn to those who exude self-confidence, passion and trustworthiness,” said Davis. “But the honest sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences at work can be a double-edged sword, especially for women of color. Incorrect assumptions and misconceptions about who and what we are, often makes it more difficult to navigate business environments for Black women.”
Davis hopes by sharing her story that she will encourage future Black female leaders to own their voice and believes that you must know your audience to foster better collaboration and authenticity in a professional environment. Most importantly, knowing how to best represent your values in your workplace culture.
“Authenticity begins with self-awareness. Knowing who you are—your values, emotions, and competencies—and how you’re perceived by others”, said Davis. “To be an authentic leader for change, you must possess the skills of being morally grounded, transparent and responsive to needs.”
Davis also cautions that Black women should be careful about their own perceptions in the workplace.
“Don’t assume that only people who look like you will be your greatest advocates. White men have promoted me to the most senior positions in my career and I am thrilled to work for one of them right now – Dr. Mark Lombardi,” said Davis.
In an effort to help underserved communities, Davis will support a plan to revolutionize the higher education model within the University.
“I’m truly blessed to be where I am in my career and the best is yet to come!”
- Photography: Ag Photography
- Writer: Tiffany Byndom
- Editor in Chief: ML Hunt
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