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Top 25 Women in Higher Education and Beyond

We salute and honor a diverse group of women who have
made significant contributions in higher education and beyond.
Compiled by Catherine Morris


Edith Bartley

Edith Bartley

Spokesperson and Advocate for
Diplomatic Families and Victims of International Terrorism


Bartley’s career is marked by advocacy on behalf of two causes: HBCUs and achieving justice for the victims of the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Bartley’s father, a vice consul, and her brother, then interning at the embassy, were both killed in the attack. Bartley has spent years lobbying on Capitol Hill on behalf of the victims, while also working for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). She stepped down as vice president of government affairs at TMCF at the end of 2016 to focus on writing a book related to her advocacy on behalf of the victims of terrorism.

Carrie Billy

Carrie L. Billy

President and CEO, American Indian
Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)


As president of the AIHEC, Billy advocates for the nation’s 37 tribal colleges and universities. After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in 1986, Billy worked at a law firm in Washington, D.C., before heeding the call to enter public service. She served as a senior staff member in the office of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D-New Mexico), where she helped pass legislation designating tribal colleges as land-grant institutions. She was named the first executive director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities by President Clinton in 1998. Billy is a member of the Navajo Nation.

Kalilah Brown

Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean

Associate Professor of Political Science,
Quinnipiac University


Brown-Dean is a scholar and criminal justice reform advocate, using her research and activism to highlight social issues brought about by mass incarceration and the death penalty. In 2009, she was named the Senior Justice Advocacy Fellow by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. As a fellow, she examined voter registration and mobilization strategies in five communities in Connecticut where the rate of incarceration is high but civic engagement is low.

Mary Schmidt

Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell

President, Spelman College


Campbell was appointed the 10th president of Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college located in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2015. She has worked in academia, civic government and museums, previously serving as dean of the Tisch School of the Arts and associate provost for the arts at New York University. Campbell was commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs from 1987 to 1991, before which she served as executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem and curator of the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.

Constance Carroll

Dr. Constance Carroll

Chancellor, San Diego Community College District


A trailblazing leader in the community college sphere, Carroll is the first woman to serve as chancellor of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD), which serves approximately 130,000 students. In addition to her work equalizing access to higher education, Carroll has also fought to raise the profile of community colleges, piloting a four-year degree program at SDCCD. Carroll has a Ph.D. in classics and served for six years on the National Council on the Humanities.

Kim Cassidy

Dr. Kim Cassidy

President, Bryn Mawr College


Cassidy is the ninth president of Bryn Mawr, a women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. She has been with the college since 1993, serving as a faculty member, provost and interim president. With her support, Bryn Mawr developed academic partnerships with other four-year institutions such as Haverford College, Penn State University and Swarthmore College. Cassidy was also integral in Bryn Mawr obtaining a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to develop a partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia and Montgomery County Community College, which created a pathway for high-achieving community college students to attend Bryn Mawr.

Doris Ching

Dr. Doris Ching

2017 Acting Director,
University of Hawaii System Academy for Creative Media


Ching began working in education in Hawaii in the early 1960s, starting as a middle school teacher before moving to a faculty role within the University of Hawai‘i (UH) system. She has since served as a dean and in multiple senior positions in student and academic affairs. In 2016, she served as interim chancellor of UH West O‘ahu.

Marsha Tyson

Dr. Marsha J. Tyson Darling

Director, African, Black and Caribbean Studies,
Adelphi University


As a self-described engaged scholar, Darling is an intellectual and activist. Her causes are civil and women’s rights, and she has been active for decades on the international stage, representing the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and chairing United Nations panels on women’s issues and economic issues.

Peggy Davis

Peggy Davis

Athletic Director, Virginia State University


Davis was named Virginia State University (VSU) athletic director in 2003, making her one of the relatively few women who serve as an athletic director of an NCAA Division II school. According to a 2014 study on women in sports, less than a quarter of Division II athletic directors are female. Under Davis’ direction, VSU student-athletes perform well on and off the field. In 2015, VSU was one of 27 NCAA Division II schools to receive the President’s Award for Academic Excellence. VSU is a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), a conference of historically Black institutions.

Stella Flores

Dr. Stella Flores

Professor of Education, New York University


An expert in higher education issues, Flores’ research has a wide and influential scope. Her areas of expertise include minority-serving institutions, immigrant students, English languages-learners, alternative admissions plans and financial aid programs, shifts in student demographics, Latino students and community colleges. Her insights were cited in the dissenting opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court Gratz v. Bollinger decision, which ruled that the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies were unconstitutional.

Maurren Hoyler

Maureen Hoyler

President, Council for Opportunity in Education


Hoyler is president of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities. She has been with the organization since its inception in 1981 and was an essential part of building COE from the ground up. She served as the organization’s chief operating officer prior to assuming her role as president in 2013.

Dr. PPaula Johnsonaula Johnson

President, Wellesley College


Capping off a distinguished career in public health, Johnson was named the 14th president of Wellesley College, an all-women’s institution located on the outskirts of Boston, becoming the first Black woman to take on the role. She spent much of her career working in women’s health issues, pioneering research on how gender affects the practice of medicine. Prior to moving to Wellesley, Johnson was a professor and faculty member at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Tuajuanda Jordan 1

Dr. Tuajuanda C. Jordan

President, St. Mary’s College of Maryland


Jordan has served as St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) seventh president since July 2014. During her tenure, the Board of Trustees approved “A Time for Rebirth,” a new three-year strategic plan that builds on the college’s charter as Maryland’s only public honors college and the first of its kind in the nation. Prior to SMCM, Jordan served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and as a professor of chemistry at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. While there, she helped recruit an exceptional and diverse faculty, launched a center for entrepreneurship and developed a campus-wide system to increase student persistence and graduation rates. As an associate dean and tenured faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University in Louisiana, she helped establish the center for undergraduate research and creativity.

Ellen Junn

Dr. Ellen N. Junn

President, Stanislaus State University


Supporting underserved students and improving access to higher education has been among Junn’s primary areas of focus during her 26 years as a faculty member and administrator within the California State University system. As the chief academic officer at San Jose State, she established the African-American Student Success and Hispanic Student Success Task Forces to improve graduation rates for students of color. She became the fifth woman to lead a Cal State institution when she was appointed president of Stanislaus State in 2016.

Melissa Lazarin

Melissa Lazarín

Senior Policy Adviser, Center for American Progress


As a senior policy advisor for the education policy team at the Center for American Progress, Lazarín focuses on school improvement, charter schools, high school reform and education issues facing English language learners and Latinos. Previously, she was director of education policy at First Focus and associate director of education policy at the National Council of La Raza.

Dr. Eboni Marshall-Turman

Assistant Professor of Religion,Eboni Marshall
Yale Divinity School


Marshall-Turman examines religion through the lens of womanist theory. She is an assistant professor of theology and African-American religion at Yale Divinity School and an ordained minister in the National Baptist Convention. Marshall-Turman preaches at churches across the country.

Angelyn Mitchell

Dr. Angelyn Mitchell

Professor of English,
Georgetown University


Founder of Georgetown University’s African-American Studies program, Mitchell served as first director of the program from 2003 to 2013. Mitchell is currently an associate professor in the English and African-American studies departments at Georgetown University, where she specializes in African-American literary and cultural studies, critical race studies, and women’s and gender studies. She is a noted expert on Toni Morrison and is currently working on a book called Toni Morrison, Whiteness, and the Politics of Race.

Susana Munoz

Dr. Susana Maria Muñoz

Associate Professor of Education,
Colorado State University


Muñoz’s research focuses on issues of college access, persistence and identity among underrepresented student populations, with a particular emphasis on the experience of undocumented and Latino/a students. Her first book, Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education: The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists, examines the lives of 13 student activists. She is originally from Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.

Yolanda Page

Dr. Yolanda Page

Vice President for Academic Affairs,
Dillard University


Page’s ties to the HBCU community run deep. She is an alumna of Dillard, a historically Black university in Louisiana, and prior to taking on her current role as vice president for academic affairs at the university, she was dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an 1890 Land-Grant HBCU. In just four years at Dillard, Page started a pre-law program and a medical physics track within the physics department. She also raised more than $12.5 million in external funding for the Division of Academic Affairs.

Barbara Ransby

Dr. Barbara Ransby

Distinguished Professor of African-American Studies,
University of Illinois


A historian, writer and political activist, Ransby’s work focuses on the civil rights movement and feminism. She is the author of the biography Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical, Democratic Vision, and her writing has appeared in publications such as the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and The Progressive. Ransby directs the campus-wide social justice initiative and gender and women’s studies program at UIC.

Lisa Rubin

Dr. Lisa Rubin

Assistant Professor of Education,
Kansas State University


Although Rubin’s academic work focuses on college student-athlete development and women in intercollegiate administration, she originally planned to go into the music industry. Rubin found her true calling in a sports management graduate program after graduating from college two years early. She now serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Higher Education Athletics & Innovation and the NACADA-NCAA Advisory board, an organization that provides professional training for faculty and administrators who support student-athletes.

Er Shipp

E.R. Shipp

Associate Professor,
School of Global Journalism & Communication,
Morgan State University


A Pulitzer-prize winning columnist and historian, Shipp was born and raised in Georgia, where her first internship was at the Atlanta Journal. She later moved to New York City to attend Columbia University and worked at The New York Times for 13 years as a reporter and editor. In 1993, she took a break from journalism to pursue a master’s in history, studying the relationships between slaves and their masters in rural Georgia, examining her family’s history in the process. In 1994, she began writing for the New York Daily News, where her takes on the times earned her a Pulitzer.

Manisha Sinha

Dr. Manisha Sinha

Draper Chair in American History,
University of Connecticut


Sinha is a scholar of early American history, slavery and the abolitionist movement. Her recent, groundbreaking work The Slave’s Cause traces the history of the abolitionist movement from its origins before the American Revolution to the end of slavery during the Civil War. She has received numerous fellowships from institutions such as the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Cheryl Smith

Cheryl L. Smith

Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Government Affairs,
United Negro College Fund


In her 25 years working on Capitol Hill, Smith was an integral player in developing and enacting education legislation. She made history as the first and only African-American staff director of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Smith joined the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), a philanthropic organization that advocates for private HBCUs and scholarships for its 39 member institutions, in 2013.

Heather Thompson

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson

History Professor, University of Michigan


Thompson is a historian and award-winning writer, with a focus on policing, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. She is currently a professor at the University of Michigan and sits on the board of the Prison Policy Initiative. She is also a Soros Justice Fellow and served on a National Academy of the Sciences panel that examined the causes and effects of incarceration in the U.S. Her recent book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

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