WASHINGTON - July 03, 2020 -Elizabeth Davenport, a professor at Alabama State University’s Department of Educational Leadership, was honored Friday as the 2020 Higher Educator of the Year at the NEA Representative Assembly.
The Higher Educator of the Year honor, sponsored by the NEA Foundation, recognizes a postsecondary education professional who has demonstrated outstanding service to students, excellence in teaching or working with students, and state or local labor-based advocacy.
In her speech to RA delegates, Davenport, who is Black, noted the educational opportunities provided to her, decades ago, through admissions policies that aimed to create racially diverse campuses. She is concerned that her students today do not have the same opportunities at elite campuses, to the detriment of all.
“Diversity is a source of opportunity. We all know that,” she said. “Diversity promotes personal growth and a psychologically healthy society. It challenges stereotypes, encourages critical thinking, and helps students learn to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds. Diversity strengthens communities and workplaces.”
At Alabama State, Davenport teaches courses such as “Constitutional Law and Education,” and guides educators through the Ed.D. and Ph.D. process. Previously, she taught at Florida A&M University, where she also served as president of the United Faculty of Florida-FAMU chapter, defending the rights of her colleagues and negotiating salary increases for every year of her presidency. When she moved to Alabama State, she got her entire wing to join the Alabama Education Association.
For the entirety of her career in higher education, Davenport, who attended University of Michigan and New York University, has chosen to teach at historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs) or other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). “I think it’s important to mentor the next generation, whether they’re going to be teachers or lawyers, or whatever,” said Davenport.
For her part, Davenport has been both — a teacher and a lawyer. She holds five advanced degrees, including a law degree, three master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. in curriculum, teaching and educational policy.
Looking back across her career, which now spans five decades, Davenport said the work that has given her the most pride has been the mentorship of dozens of women in her Ph.D. programs. She calls these educational doctoral candidates her “Baby Docs,” and, with her care and nurturing attention, they have gone on to become assistant professors, K12 administrators, instructional designers and educational consultants across the nation. “The relationships with these women have been very strong. I think we’ve nurtured each other,” she said.
Davenport was honored alongside the 2020 Teacher of the Year and the Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. She is the third-ever winner of the NEA Higher Educator of the Year award. Last year’s winner, David Schneider, is a communications professor at Michigan’s Saginaw Valley State University.
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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
The NEA Foundation is a national philanthropic organization that invests in educators’ leadership, shared learning and collaboration; supports partnerships and initiatives that strengthen public education; and promotes improvements in public education policy and practice. neafoundation.org