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Member Spotlight

Elizabeth Davenport: Our Job is to Transform Minds

Elizabeth Davenport, Ph.D. is Professor of Educational Leadership at Alabama State University & 2020 NEA Higher Educator of the Year
Elizabeth Davenport
Published: 10/05/2020

When I graduated from college I was only 19, going on 20, so I was young. I had a bachelor’s degree in education, and I didn’t think I was old enough to run a high school classroom—so I went to law school. I wanted to use the law to do something for schools.

When I got to Michigan State, I got a master’s in telecommunications, adult learning, and higher education. I thought, if I like schools and I like being in schools, I should find a job doing something in schools—that’s how I got into teaching. 

I chose to teach at HBCUs because I think it’s important to mentor the next generation. I want my students to think and grow. I want them to know their rights.

I worry about HBCUs. We’ve got this pandemic, more funding cuts, and students will have to rely on their own funds to get through—It’s going to be a tough year.

When I was in school education was considered a public good and my success was considered the success of everyone. Higher education has to go back to being a public good. When I look at politics right now and at certain politicians who want to gear up their base, I see them focusing on the things that divide us, but education shouldn’t divide us—it should unite us!

When I came to FAMU, I got into union leadership and eventually became president. Every year I negotiated a salary raise for my colleagues. 
I now teach at Alabama State, and though my role has changed I’ve never stopped being an advocate. Everyone on my wing has joined the union, in September I became chair of the Faculty Senate.

Our job is to transform minds, I really believe that.

We can have a difference of opinion and we can talk it out. And I honestly believe that through talk, there’s action. That is what a union provides. It provides a safe place to talk, organize, and to solve problems.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.