Now in its 8th year, Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs (PPWSA) 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.
A private Catholic university in Louisville, Kentucky, Bellarmine University was founded in 1950 and today has both undergraduate and graduate students.“ Bellarmine University recently unveiled a strategic plan that situates student success as our core mission, along with inclusivity and academic innovation,” says Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan, vice president for student affairs. “Student Affairs, which houses so many of the university’s critical student support services, breathes life into that mission daily, making it a common experience for our students. Our office’s dedicated professionals embody what we lovingly refer to as the ‘Bellarmine Difference,’ which is all about holding ourselves to a standard of excellence in a compassionate, supportive community.”
California Polytechnic State University
A public university in San Luis Obispo, California Polytechnic State University is one of two polytechnic institutions in the California State system. This is the fourth time Cal Poly has appeared on this list in five years. “It speaks to the continued dedication of our division to create an atmosphere where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to the table,” says Dr. Keith B. Humphrey, vice president for student affairs. “When we create healthy working conditions for our staff, they can focus on promoting student success. This acknowledgement only strengthens my resolve to continually implement improvements that establish a workplace that supports, appreciates and recognizes the unique talents and contributions of our amazing staff.”
California State University -Channel Islands
California State University-Channel Islands (CSUCI) opened in 2002, making it the 23rd campus in the California State University system. It is a Hispanic-serving institution and offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. “Since inception, CSUCI recognized the importance of a well-established and resourced Division of Student Affairs (DSA) in achieving student success,” says Toni DeBoni, interim vice president for student affairs. “Grounded in the belief that this success is dependent on the complement of curricular and co-curricular experiences, the DSA has created essential programs, services and alliances with the academic enterprise to eliminate equity gaps, increase retention, and facilitate timely degree completion. CSUCI values the diverse and inclusive team of professionals in the DSA who share a common value of educating and supporting all students.”
A private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University was founded in 1887 as a graduate institution. Undergraduates were admitted as of 1902 and women enrolled as of 1942. “We’re honored to be recognized as one of the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs,” says Danielle Morgan Acosta, associate dean of students. “Our team is dedicated every day to creating a vibrant student experience that is welcoming and inclusive, and to helping shape and engage a just community of empathy and support that will serve and inspire future generations of Clarkies.”
A private liberal arts school in Hamilton, New York, Colgate University is often compared to prestigious Ivy League institutions for its beautiful campus and stellar academics. “Colgate University’s ‘Third Century Plan’ is about attracting and supporting outstanding students, faculty and staff, including student affairs colleagues, in the service of learning and enhancing the student experience,” says Dr. Paul J. McLoughlin II, vice president and dean of the college. “Our student affairs staff, who are educators at their core and whose work touches every part of a student’s experience, are central to the university’s long-term commitment to providing an outstanding residential, liberal arts education.”
College of William & Mary
Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, William & Mary, founded in 1693, has educated U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler as well as other notable figures. “Our division is at its best when we recognize the value in each other’s uniqueness, honor all voices and perspectives, and celebrate one another’s expertise and talents,” says Dr. Virginia M. Ambler, vice president for student affairs. “We know that creating and sustaining an open, respectful campus environment is important for both students and employees to flourish.”
A private liberal arts college in Davidson, North Carolina, Davidson College is an institution that embraces humility and believes achievements are a reflection of collective effort. “Davidson College has an extraordinary commitment to undergraduate education and preparing students for lives of leadership and service,” says Dr. Byron McCrae, vice president for student life and dean of students. “As campus leaders, educators, mentors and advisors to our students, members of the student life staff at Davidson have been integral in this holistic education.”
A private university in Elon, North Carolina, Elon University has transformed from a small liberal arts college to a nationally known university. “Our inclusion on this list is a testament to the thoughtful, intentional efforts of colleagues in the Division of Student Life, and our partners across campus, to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus culture — for our students and for our employees,” says Dr. Jon Dooley, vice president for student life. “Our Student Life educators are key campus leaders and contributors to some of our most important university-wide initiatives, including the expansion and enhancement of mentoring relationships, leadership and skill development, inclusive excellence, wellness and well-being, civic engagement, and a vibrant residential campus experience,” says Dr. Connie Book, president of Elon.
Holy Names University
Holy 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. “I am so proud and honored to work with the outstanding student affairs team at Holy Names University,” says Laura Lyndon, vice president for student affairs. “Their deep commitment to cultivating an inclusive, anti-racist and student-centered culture manifests in all aspects of their work, and during this past year, their creativity in meeting the needs of students both on and off campus reflected this commitment on every level.”
Humboldt State University
Located in Arcata, California, Humboldt State University is part of the California State University system. It is divided into the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and Sciences and the College of Professional Studies. “This prestigious award is reflective of the measurable outcomes that our team has accomplished since 2019 to improve and enhance quality of life for CSU Humboldt’s students while improving quality of place for our student affairs and enrollment management team. Starting with our president, Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., CSU Humboldt is committed to sustaining a high-quality student affairs program,” says Dr. Jason L Meriwether, vice president of enrollment management. “This award highlights those efforts as well as the collegial atmosphere we’ve managed to create within our area to help do our best work,” says Dr. Eboni Ford Turnbow, dean of students.
Kent State University
A large public research institution, Kent State University is the third-largest university in Ohio with an enrollment over 35,000. “Student affairs work is enriching, challenging, and rewarding,” says Dr. Lamar R. Hylton, vice president of student affairs. “Kent State University values the co-curricular student experience as a primary contributor to student success. Paramount to this experience is living our values of diversity, equity and inclusive excellence in action. Our ability to serve students and provide them with a meaningful experience is rooted in the hard work and dedication of our divisional staff. These colleagues work to ensure that our values guide us to greatness. It is my everyday honor to have to learn and grow alongside this amazing team and our stellar students.”
Making a repeat appearance on the list is Miami University, a public research institution in Oxford, Ohio. Founded in 1809, the institution’s website boasts its graduates are “Miami made. Forever prepared.” “As a large public university, Miami University is known for its unparalleled commitment to the undergraduate student experience. I am so proud to work with such an innovative group of professionals in student life who dedicate themselves to that commitment for every member of our diverse student body every day,” says Dr. Jayne E. Brownell, vice president of student life.
Pennsylvania College of Technology
An applied technology college located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania College of Technology is a public institution affiliated with, but autonomous from, Pennsylvania State University. It offers degree programs in more than 100 fields of study. “Students are at the center of all we do at Penn College,” says Elliott Strickland, vice president for student affairs. “Our work in educating, developing, and supporting students is made easier by providing an environment that supports all our employees, both personally and professionally. We are incredibly fortunate that our president, Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, and our vice president for human resources, Hillary Hofstrom, support and promote this philosophy.”
A private institution in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Rider University consists 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. “Rider University emphasizes in its strategic plan an unwavering focus on student growth and development,” says Dr. Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for student affairs. “The role of student affairs in this holistic vision of student learning is essential. Student affairs has played a vital role in advancing Rider’s inclusive excellence plan and our campus commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion to assure each student reaches their potential.”
Rochester Institute of Technology
A private research university in Rochester, New York, the Rochester Institute of Technology offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees and is internationally known for its science, computer and engineering programs. “We are proud of the work we’re doing to increase diversity and strengthen inclusion and belonging at RIT,” says Dr. Sandra Johnson, senior vice president, student affairs. “We are honored to accept this recognition for the progress we’ve made so far on our diversity and inclusion journey, and we recognize that this work is a lifelong journey, and we still have more to do.”
Saint Louis University
This is a repeat honor for Saint Louis University, a private Jesuit institution located in St. Louis, Missouri. It encourages students to “Transform how you think about the world and yourself.” “This recognition not only reflects SLU’s commitment to hire and retain a diverse and talented workforce, but it also is a testament to the dedication of the staff in our Division of Student Development,” says Dr. Sarah Cunningham, vice president for student development. “They are remarkably gifted and care deeply about our students, and that has never been more evident than it has amid this pandemic. They are also a huge reason I chose to become the vice president of student development at SLU, and I feel privileged to work with them every day to provide holistic support to our students.”
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University, founded in 1879, is the third-oldest public college or university in Texas. “The Division of Student Affairs plays a critical role in the development of our students through the many activities, programs and services that are offered by the various departments,” says Frank Parker, vice president for student affairs. “In this division, we encourage diversity, participation and excellence. Our goal is to develop informed students who, after they graduate have the skills and desire to become productive citizens in society. This synergy creates a great opportunity and environment for our professional staff to also learn and embrace a culture of excellence.”
Samuel Merritt University
A private institution in Oakland, California, Samuel Merritt University is focused on health sciences and a vision of “Transforming healthcare. Transforming communities.” This is the university’s third consecutive appearance on this list. “This recognition is a tribute to SMU’s dedicated and committed student affairs staff,” says Timothy Cranford, vice president for student affairs. “When we create healthy working conditions for our staff, they can focus on promoting student success. Our team’s can-do attitude, inclusive thinking, respect for past practices and collaborative efforts helped to build SMU’s promising model for a diverse and equitable Student Affairs division. I could not be more proud of our team.”
Sonoma State University
A Hispanic-serving institution in Sonoma County, California, Sonoma State University is part of the California State University system. It offers 92 bachelor’s degree programs, 18 master’s programs and 11 teaching credentials. “Being recognized for the third year in a row highlights our division’s commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusivity,” says Dr. Wm. Gregory Sawyer, vice president for student affairs. “Each staff member in the Division of Student Affairs focuses their work on providing programs, services and initiatives that ensure student success, promote a sense of belonging and foster holistic student development. In student affairs, we nurture a culture of care and a sense of family and belonging. Our staff embraces and respects the diversity of cultures, beliefs and experiences that each of us brings to our work every day. We support each other and our students.”
The Ohio State University
A public land-grant research university in Columbus, Ohio, The Ohio State University is considered the flagship institution of the University of Ohio System, offering a broad range of majors and programs to its more than 60,000 students.
“This has been a challenging year in higher education, and I could not be more proud of how our Ohio State Student Life team has responded,” says Dr. Melissa Shivers, senior vice president for student life. “This award recognizes the exemplary work they’ve done to care for our students and each other, and the extraordinary approach of our organization in putting a focus on a culture of care, connection, support and appreciation.”
University of California, Riverside
A public land-grant research institution, University of California, Riverside is one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. “Last year, the Division of Student Affairs faced unique challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic; however, our staff of dedicated professionals rose to the challenge and created innovative approaches to assure student engagement while in a remote environment,” says Dr. Brian Haynes, vice chancellor for student affairs. “This included offering weekly unity hours with our ethnic and gender programs, more robust virtual office hours, enhanced safety measures at our student health services, telehealth appointments in counseling and psychological services, live online fitness classes through the Student Recreation Center and, of course, additional support for students through basic needs, such grocery bag and e-gift card distributions. I’m proud to say we are a resilient, collaborative, and passionate group who enjoy serving our students.”
University of Delaware
A public land-grant research institution, University of Delaware is the largest university in the state. It offers associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs. “Student success is the priority at the University of Delaware and there is a true commitment to the whole student experience—curricular and co-curricular,” says Dr. José-Luis Riera, vice president for student life. “The Division of Student Life leads a student experience focused on advancing equity and inclusion, deepening student learning, and driving holistic development. Recognizing our work is primarily facilitated by people, we are committed to investing in the employee experience and culture as we seek to become a national model of student affairs.”
University of Florida
A public, land-grant research university in Gainesville, the University of Florida is the senior institution in the State University System of Florida. The academic staff is comprised of more than 8,000 and the administrative staff more than 6,500 professionals to serve the university’s more than 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. “I could not have asked for a better team as we navigated COVID-19,” says Dr. D’Andra Mull, vice president for student affairs. “Our services, programs and facilities never closed. Every day we woke up and found new challenges, but also new opportunities and pathways to support all our students. I’m proud of our team’s innovation, dedication and creativity. Over the course of the last year, we intentionally built moments to celebrate the incredible contributions of our staff and center their work.”
University of Hawaii-Hilo
One of 10 general campuses in the University of Hawaii system, University of Hawaii at Hilo is returning to the list. “Now more than ever, the work of student affairs professionals is critical for providing the holistic support that students need to be successful in college,” says Dr. Farrah-Marie Gomes, vice chancellor for student affairs. “The University of Hawaii at Hilo remains committed to our student affairs professionals, knowing that our investment in their development strengthens individual and collective capacity to better provide for the unique and changing characteristics of our diverse student body. These are the same professionals that contribute to the building of a welcoming, safe and inclusive foundation upon which students and staff will continue to thrive. I have profound gratitude for all of our student affairs professionals who exude compassion and grace for our students while also demonstrating care for one another.”
University of Maryland-Baltimore
Founded in 1807, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) is a public institution. The campus primarily serves graduate students with professional schools of dentistry, law, medicine, pharmacy, social work and nursing. “The University of Maryland, Baltimore and UMB Student Affairs are committed to innovation, diversity, equity and inclusion,” says Dr. Patty Alvarez, assistant vice president of student affairs. “Our commitment to these values and supporting staff and their success continued and strengthened during the pandemic. The university also has policies and benefits that assist in making UMB a great place to work. I am committed to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues within UMB Student Affairs and across the university to create inclusive environments where our staff are free to innovate in support of students and feel valued as individuals and professionals.”
University of Maryland-College Park
Founded in 1856, University of Maryland, College Park, is the flagship institution in the University System of Maryland. It serves more than 30,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students. “Given this challenging year in higher education, I am especially grateful to receive this honor,” says Dr. Patty Perillo, vice president for student affairs. “This award recognizes the exemplary work of student affairs educators deeply invested in maximizing human potential for all members of our community. We lead with a desire to foster community and a deep sense of caring, so all members feel that they matter.”
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
A public research university, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, like all institutions in the UNC system, is a stand-alone university. It offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. “This accolade reflects the work we do every day—in collaboration with so many campus partners—to impact student success,” says Dr. Cathy Akens, vice chancellor for student affairs. “UNC Greensboro takes pride in providing access and opportunity to individuals from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups. As a university we have excelled at closing the race/ethnicity graduation gap and increasing social mobility. The student affairs educators in our division are focused on reducing students’ barriers and engaging them in meaningful ways. We have a commitment to equity and inclusion and a strong culture of care that permeates everything we do. This team’s commitment to student well-being and success is unmatched.”
University of Vermont
A public land-grant research university located in Burlington, the University of Vermont was founded in 1791, making it one of the oldest universities in the country. “We are humbled to be recognized for our 15-plus year commitment to creating a division that is committed to deepening our inter-multicultural competency by examining systems of oppression,” says Jilliene J. Rodriguez, diversity, engagement and professional development director in the vice provost and dean of students office. “The division’s focus on diversity, affirmative recruitment and hiring and restorative practices has provided us a framework to be more informed leaders. Our staff members are thoughtful and passionate educators who actively work to address, advocate and support the emerging needs of our student body and campus community. While this work can be challenging, we see it as our collective responsibility to build a more equitable, inclusive and caring campus community.”
University of West Georgia
Located in Carrollton, Georgia, the University of West Georgia is a public institution and a familiar name on this list. There are more than 13,000 students pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees. “I am grateful to serve alongside colleagues in an environment in which we intentionally focus on cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment reflective of the students we serve, and this recognition for eight consecutive years is a testament to that commitment,” says Dr. André L. Fortune, vice president, student affairs and enrollment management.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
This is the third consecutive recognition on this list for West Chester University of Pennsylvania, a public institution that counts among its outstanding alumni First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden. “This year has been especially difficult with all that is happening in our society regarding the racial injustices in the Black and Brown communities and managing a global pandemic,” says Dr. Zebulun R. Davenport, vice president for student affairs. “West Chester University has remained steadfast in keeping our students first in all that we do. Without the dedication of our campus administration, staff and faculty and the continued commitment to the work we do in student affairs, we would not be recognized with this award. I would like to say a heart-felt thank you to all who have helped to make this a reality.”
This article originally appeared in the June 10, 2021 edition of Diverse. Read it here.