Sociology Graduate Student Awarded K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award

Dec. 9, 2011

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Ashley Palmer, doctoral student in the department of sociology and assistant director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) at Baylor University, has received the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award and will be recognized at the 12th annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Jan. 25-28, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

The K. Patricia Cross Award recognizes graduate students who show promise as future leaders of higher education, whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning, and who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and others.

"I decided to nominate Ashley for the award because of the extraordinary leadership and vision that she has demonstrated in her position as assistant director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning," said Dr. Lenore Wright, interim director of the ATL and associate professor of philosophy at Baylor. "Moreover, I thought Ashley was particularly suited for the K. Patricia Cross Award because of the many important roles she assumes at Baylor--teacher, administrator, doctoral student."

Wright said Palmer is an exceptionally accomplished person, making her stand out among the approximately 270 nominations for the award. This fall, Palmer led a new media seminar for the ATL, taught two courses in the department of sociology, co-facilitated a semester long writing workshop for graduate students, co-hosted a seminar for excellence in teaching, made an award-winning conference presentation at the Education Learning Initiative and managed multiple new initiatives for the ATL. More than that, she did everything while structuring her dissertation and caring for her five-year-old daughter.

"What does not stand out?" Wright said. "If I had to identify one aspect of Ashley's work that best defines her I would identify her creativity. She approaches every new challenge with an open and engaged mind. Whether she has a teaching dilemma or gets bogged down in her writing or has to find childcare for her daughter, she works through various possibilities herself and solicits additional suggestions from others."

Her willingness to consider multiple points of view is part of what makes Palmer a great teacher, administrator, scholar and mother, Wright said.

"She is not afraid of ideas no matter how unconventional they may seem, and her courage in the face of uncertainty enables her to work collaboratively with others toward a common goal," Wright said.

Palmer received her bachelor's degree in environmental science in 2005 from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., and her master's degree in sociology of religion in 2008 from Baylor.

While both flattered and honored by her selection, Palmer said she also feels humbled.

"The application and nomination process required a personal statement from me regarding my leadership in teaching and learning and developing students in these ways," Palmer said. "In constructing that statement, and now also in receiving the award, I feel strongly committed to developing students as learners, but I also feel a strong awareness that I have a long way to go in developing myself toward that end."

Honoring K. Patricia Cross, Professor Emerita of Higher Education at the University of California-Berkley, the award includes travel, lodging, conference registration and a one-year affiliation with AAC&U, including subscriptions to all AAC&U periodicals.

Attending the conference will be a valuable opportunity to meet leaders in higher education and to better understand the goals that motivate the ways that they run their organizations, as well as how they interact with students in the service of those goals, Palmer said.

"As a sociologist, I am always interested in how institutions and organizations operate at different levels," Palmer said. "How does each level, and the individuals within each level, contribute to the functioning of the whole? With a university, for example, you might ask: What are the goals of the university? And how are they managed by administrators or executed by faculty and staff? And are those goals ultimately realized by the students?"

In short, Palmer said she is looking forward to meeting, greeting, observing and learning.

"On behalf of Baylor and the Academy for Teaching and Learning, I am proud that one of our own was selected for the K. Patricia Cross Award," Wright said. "But, of course, the honor rests with Ashley, whose passion for teaching and learning earned her this tremendous recognition."

by Katy McDowall, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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