The 2022 Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs

Now in its 9th year, the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs (MPPWSA) is a national recognition that celebrates student affairs workplaces that are vibrant, diverse, supportive, and committed to staff work-life balance, professional development, and inclusive excellence.

PPWSA offers institutional leaders information that can be used to improve practices across their student affairs community, while also serving as a useful tool for employers, career services staff, and job-seekers across the country! Find and learn more about the full report in the March 3, 2022 edition of Diverse

In alphabetical order, Diverse presents this year's Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs:


California Polytechnic State University

Dr. Keith B. HumphreyDr. Keith B. HumphreyThis is the fifth recognition in six years for California Polytechnic State University, one of two polytechnic institutions in the California State system. “At the core of our strategy is to invest in our team members so that they can show up as their best selves for our students,” says Dr. Keith B. Humphrey, vice president for student affairs. “This means a strong professional development program, open lines of communication between staff and administration, and regular opportunities to celebrate our collective accomplishments. When we create communities that promote a sense of belonging, every student will be able to fully realize their academic and personal dreams.”


Case Western Reserve University

Lou StarkLou StarkA private research institution in Cleveland, Ohio, Case Western Reserve University has roots stretching back almost 200 years. There are nearly 12,000 students and about half are undergraduates. “We see the entire student experience on our campus as part of their education and development — whether it’s participating in student organizations, competing on athletic and/or academic teams, or engaging with peer support and wellness programs,” says Lou Stark, vice president for student affairs. “Diversity and inclusion are core values of the university, and we work hard to ensure that everything we do reflects that emphasis – from recruiting and onboarding staff to considering and launching programs to welcoming and supporting all voices. … We are a large division with many individual units, and we take steps to reinforce the idea that we are a single team working together on behalf of students.”


Colgate University

Dr. Paul J. McLoughlin IIDr. Paul J. McLoughlin IIColgate University, a private liberal arts school in Hamilton, New York, is again recognized. “By being intentional in the development of student learning outcomes, regular assessment of our work, encouraging professional development and creating an ethos of collaboration, student affairs professionals at Colgate can see the direct impact of their efforts and actively contribute to student success,” says Dr. Paul J. McLoughlin II, vice president and dean of the college. “Every student affairs practitioner in the Dean of the College division at Colgate has the opportunity to participate in the direction of the division – whether on search committees, interviewing or onboarding new staff and by participating in cross-divisional working groups or committees.”


William & Mary

Dr. Virginia AmblerDr. Virginia AmblerFounded in 1693, William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia, counts among its alumni U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. “We have chosen a profession whose priority is to strengthen community and promote individual flourishing,” says Dr. Virginia M. Ambler, vice president for student affairs. “That’s what we want for our students and it’s what we want for one another as colleagues. At William & Mary, I am profoundly grateful to work with people who share a commitment to creating an inclusive, affirming work experience in our division, one where all voices are valued and actively sought. For me, success is measured by meaningful work and authentic relationships, and those are built day by day, one interaction at a time.” 


Elon University

Dr. Jon DooleyDr. Jon DooleyElon University in North Carolina was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 100 universities of 2021. “The past few years have been incredibly challenging for student affairs and higher education,” says Dr. Jon Dooley, vice president for student life. “Colleagues at Elon have kept the conversation about our institutional mission and culture at the forefront of our efforts to make Elon a great place to work and we are constantly striving for improvement. The leadership of the university values and respects the contributions of student affairs educators, so even despite the challenges we face, we remain optimistic about the future.”


Fontbonne University

Dr. Heather FrenchDr. Heather FrenchFontbonne University is a private Catholic university in St. Louis, Missouri, that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. “We embrace openness, inclusiveness, and diversity as part of our mission,” says Dr. Heather A. French, vice president of student affairs and chief diversity officer. “Much of the credit goes to the individual team members who themselves are so committed, positive, and supportive of one another and our students. … Making sure staff are taking time off when needed, finding ways to appreciate and compensate team members for going the extra mile and committing to their ongoing professional development is essential.”


Holy Names University

Dr. Nicole WhitnerDr. Nicole WhitnerHoly Names University is a private Catholic institution in Oakland, California, founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, with which it remains affiliated. “Our work is so intertwined that it becomes just as important to build quality relationships with each other as it is to build them with our students,” says Dr. Nicole Whitner, dean of students/student affairs. “We genuinely enjoy collaborating with and supporting each other, and we enjoy finding new ways to keep each other energized around the work we do for our diverse campus community. One best practice within our student affairs is that our leadership team meets on a weekly basis to ensure that all of the smaller departments within the division remain in the loop on major events, changes, or projects that are happening.”


Kent State University

Dr. Lamar HyltonDr. Lamar HyltonNamed for the second consecutive year, Kent State University is a public research institution in Ohio with an enrollment over 35,000. “Student affairs work is enriching, challenging, and rewarding,” says Dr. Lamar R. Hylton, senior vice president for student affairs. “We pride ourselves on centering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in our workforce practices. This recognition symbolizes this commitment, and we are grateful to ACPA and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education for honoring us.”


Rider University

Dr. Leanna FennebergDr. Leanna FennebergRider University is a private institution in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, consisting of four academic units: Norm Brodsky College of Business, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Education and Human Services, and Westminster College of the Arts. “I am extremely proud of the Rider University student affairs team, who, even when faced with significant pressures, lead with optimism, work ethic, creativity and unmatched commitment to students, especially those with marginalized identities,” says Dr. Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for student affairs. “The centering of social justice topics has included taking opportunities during campus and national tragedy to listen to and share with one another and collaborate to support our campus community.”


Stockton University

Dr. Christopher CatchingDr. Christopher CatchingThis academic year marks 50 years of teaching at Stockton University, which is part of New Jersey’s public higher education system. “The division of student affairs can trace its origins and development to serving students in Stockton’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program,” said Dr. Christopher C. Catching, vice president for student affairs. EOF is a New Jersey program for first-generation and low-income students. Catching credits his department’s success to aligning the division’s strategies, resources, and talent toward closing equity gaps in access and student success. “Create an organizational structure and environment that provides opportunities for your team to have exposure to learning opportunities beyond their immediate area of expertise or discipline. Encourage your team to share their expertise with their colleagues.”


The University of California, Riverside

Dr. Brian HaynesDr. Brian HaynesThe University of California, Riverside is one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. “We believe in the power of collaborative campus partnerships and open dialogue,” says Dr. Brian Haynes, vice chancellor for student affairs. “[We] engage, listen, and invite both individual and collective feedback from every member of the team. It is important to have every voice at the table in terms of developing strategic plans and creative programs that will ultimately serve our students for the better.”


The University of Delaware

Dr. José-Luis RieraDr. José-Luis RieraThe University of Delaware, a research institution, offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. It is the largest university in the state. “Sustaining a consistently positive and vibrant atmosphere in student affairs – particularly during our current times – is a challenge,” says Dr. José-Luis Riera, vice president for student life. “We strive to acknowledge the hardships and difficulties that frame our work, including the pandemic and the challenges to racial equity in our country today. … The student experience, we believe, will continue to be a differentiator for college-going students in the coming decade. We work to stay fresh and invite new ways of conceiving of student affairs on campus.”


The University of Maryland, Baltimore

Dr. Patty AlvarezDr. Patty AlvarezThe University of Maryland, Baltimore primarily serves graduate students with professional schools of dentistry, law, medicine, pharmacy, social work, and nursing. “We remain committed to creating a positive and inclusive environment in student affairs,” says Dr. Patty Alvarez, assistant vice president of student affairs. “We need to consistently respect, appreciate and recognize staff on a daily basis through formal and informal means. It is important to provide flexibility to staff in addition to equitable compensation and professional development opportunities. As we continue to face multiple pandemics, these goals may not be easily accomplished, but must remain priorities.”


The University of Maryland, College Park

Dr. Patty PerilloDr. Patty PerilloThe University of Maryland, College Park is the flagship institution in the University System of Maryland, serving more than 30,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students. “We keep students at the center of our work because we believe that they are partners and co-creators,” says Dr. Patty Perillo, vice president for student affairs. “We know that by putting people in positions that play to their strengths, and helping students come to know and own theirs, we create the conditions for our community members to thrive. When people are flourishing, vibrancy and positivity are sojourners.”


The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Dr. Cathy AkensDr. Cathy AkensA public research university, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, like all institutions in the UNC system, is a stand-alone university. It offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. “Over the past year, we lived our mission and values as we navigated the pandemic and focused on not only providing students with access to their education, but also the care and support to be successful during these challenging times,” says Dr. Cathy Akens, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Our student affairs team has been on the frontlines of the crisis, and we could not be more grateful for their dedication and compassion. It has not been easy for anyone, but it is rewarding to see a team that supports one another and stays focused on our collective goals.”


West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Zebulun R. DavenportDr. Zebulun R. DavenportWest Chester University of Pennsylvania is a public institution that counts among its outstanding alumni the first lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden. “These past two years have been extremely challenging for all of us in higher education, and student affairs professionals across the country have certainly not been exempt from the stress resulting from this pandemic,” says Dr. Zebulun R. Davenport, vice president for student affairs. “Many of us have pivoted from in-person learning to remote learning and back again. Maintaining connectivity and building community in a virtual environment can be challenging, so my hat goes off to all who have managed this situation. … Congratulations to all of my student affairs colleagues for a job well done this past year regardless of whether you are receiving an award or not. Remember, your contributions are making a difference in the lives of many.”

This article originally appeared in the March 3, 2022 edition of Diverse. Read it here.