About the Dean


Dr. Lawrence T. Potter, Jr. became dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Jackson State University on Oct. 1, 2012. As dean, he is the college’s chief academic and administrative officer.

Dr. Potter came to Jackson State University from a dual appointment at DePaul University in Chicago and Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn. At DePaul, he was special assistant for Faculty Development and Diversity. At Allegheny he was associate dean of the college, chief diversity officer, professor of English and a member of the president's senior staff.

Dr. Potter previously was an associate professor, executive director and chief diversity officer as well as McNair Scholars Program director and principal investigator at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota (2005-2010).

Prior to his work at the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Potter was associate professor and department chairperson of Africana Studies and English at Western Michigan University (2000-2005) where he also served as faculty director of the Division of Multicultural Affairs Student Scholars and Achievement Program, and co-founder and convener of the faculty of color caucus.

Dean Potter has published peer-reviewed works on race, gender, class and sexuality in African-American literature as well as racial and sexual identity development in African-American males. More specifically, he is concerned with the intellectual, aesthetic, cultural, social, and political dimensions — both imagined and lived — as part of the black experience in the United States. He has taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses, has presented more than sixty invited conference papers and/or speeches, and has published in scholarly journals and books on authors such as Wallace Thurman, James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, E. Lynn Harris, James Early Hardy, and Keith Boykin. He has been recognized by professional organizations and reputable publications as a leading expert on diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education.

Dean Potter is a highly sought after public speaker, consultant and leading expert on diversity, cultural competency, equity and justice issues. He has lectured and facilitated training sessions and workshops nationwide at colleges, universities, businesses and government. He is the architect of two diversity strategic plans and consults in the areas of academic program review, academic planning, departmental self-studies, student learning outcomes assessment, faculty development, faculty recruitment and retention programs, campus climate assessments, and leadership and change management.

Dr. Potter was named an ACE Fellow for 2009-2010, and the St. Paul Foundation awarded him the Facing Race Ambassador Award for his anti-racism work in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., in 2008. He has written and served as a PI on grants totaling more than $5.6 million. Dr. Potter has been recognized by two institutions for his research and mentoring of students and faculty and has been the recipient of the Lewis Walker Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award at Western Michigan University and the William B. Malevich Faculty Leadership Award at the University of St. Thomas.

Dr. Potter was a charter institutional member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), serves on the Board of Directors for select nonprofits in Chicago and Pittsburgh and is active with several academic and professional organizations including; American Conference of Academic Deans, American Council on Education, Council for Opportunity in Education, National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, Modern Languages Association, College Language Association, American Association of Blacks in Higher Education. 

Dr. Potter graduated magna cum laude with a triple major in English, philosophy, and religion from Stillman College. He earned his master's and Ph.D. (at the age of 25)  degrees in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia and was a post-doctoral fellow at Purdue in 2001. He earned a Fulbright award to teach in Hong Kong and China in 2003. Dean Potter was tenured at the age of 30 and he has been a successful university administrator and tenured professor for more than 17 years.

Dr. Potter has established the Success, Transition, Advising, and Retention Services (STARS) Program to promote advising and retention success in the College of Liberal Arts.