Meet the 2020 NEA Higher Educator of the Year

Elizabeth Davenport, a professor of instructional management at Alabama State University, lately spoke with NEA Today about her fame as a tough grader, her dedication to traditionally Black schools and universities (HBCUs), and why the best achievement of her five-decade profession in larger schooling rests with the ladies she has mentored. On Friday, July 3, the NEA Representative Assembly honored her because the 2020 NEA Higher Educator of the Year, an award sponsored by the NEA Foundation and given yearly to an impressive post-secondary educator.

On the subject of graduating from the University of Michigan (UM)’s College of Education at age 19, after which incomes 5 extra superior levels, together with a regulation diploma from UM; three grasp’s levels from New York University and Michigan State; and a Ph.D. in instructional management:

When I graduated from faculty I used to be solely 19, occurring 20, so I used to be younger. I had a bachelor’s diploma in schooling, and I didn’t suppose I used to be sufficiently old to run a highschool classroom! So I went to regulation college. I wished to make use of the regulation to do one thing in schooling, however I wound up in companies….Anyway, I noticed I like going to high school. I like the thought of studying new issues, and for instance, after I lastly did get to Michigan State, I acquired a grasp’s in telecommunications and a grasp’s in grownup studying and better ed. So I assumed, if I like colleges and I like being in colleges, I ought to discover a job doing one thing in colleges. And that’s how I acquired to educating.

I nonetheless like studying new issues! The greatest drawback in schooling is getting others to love it as a lot as I do. I see an inclination amongst some college students to say, ‘I’ve carried out [the assignment],’ and put a mark beside it. But have they actually carried out it? Do they perceive it? Can they apply it?

I’m a really onerous grader. So after I grade, it’s all the time, ‘Dr. Davenport has a thing against me!’ But I am going again to this: I need you considering at your highest means. I need you producing at your highest means.

On the subject of educating in HBCUs and different minority-serving establishments (MSIs), the way forward for their college students and the way forward for these establishments.

If someone asks me why I train at an HBCU or MSI, I say it’s as a result of that’s the place the minorities are! I made a alternative to show at HBCUs—and it was a alternative—as a result of I feel it’s necessary to mentor the subsequent era, whether or not they’re going to be lecturers or legal professionals, or no matter. I need my college students to suppose and develop. I need them to know their rights.

When they do research of how individuals really feel about their faculty expertise, HBCU college students come out on high. They really feel snug. They have vanity. But I do know they may pay a penalty for attending an HBCU. Their earnings won’t be as excessive as if they’d attended an elite Tier 1 establishment.

Honestly, I fear about HBCUs. Many have been shedding college students for years, and now we’ve acquired this pandemic and extra funding cuts, and college students should depend on their very own funds to get by. It’s going to be a troublesome yr.

We have to think about new methods of financing schooling. Back within the day, after I was in class, schooling was thought-about a public good, and my success was thought-about the success of everybody. Higher schooling has to return to being a public good. When I have a look at politics proper now and at sure politicians who wish to gear up their base, I see them specializing in the issues that divide us. But schooling shouldn’t divide us. It ought to unite us!

On her years as an area union president and chief negotiator, and the worth of unionism to her youthful colleagues.

I got here to FAMU in 2002 to show. And by chance, like every part in my life, I acquired into union management. And then by chance, I grew to become president — and in yearly of my presidency, I negotiated a wage elevate for my colleagues. I left FAMU (in 2018) as a result of I had overpassed what I wished to do, which was to show.

But it’s not like I’ve stopped being an advocate. I acquired all people on my wing right here at Alabama State to hitch the union, and in September I’ll be chair of the Faculty Senate. But I’m solely doing this as a result of I’m annoyed with the dearth of respect that this school is accepting!

Collaborating with others makes you highly effective. In Florida, for instance, which is a right-to-work state, you needed to drive them to the desk to barter, and that makes you highly effective.

I’m a northerner. I grew up in Michigan and I’m going to deliver my northern methods irrespective of the place I am going. I really feel like typically my colleagues go alongside to get alongside and that’s not schooling. When I say our jobs are to remodel minds, I actually consider that. We can have a distinction of opinion and we will speak it out. And I actually consider that by speak, there’s motion. That is what a union ought to present. It ought to present a secure place to speak, set up, and to unravel issues.

On the matters of affirmative motion, race, and variety.

When I used to be in regulation college, 50 % of my class have been feminine. It’s by no means been that manner once more. At the identical time, we have been 10 % Black — and that has by no means been the identical on the University of Michigan once more. Right now, at that regulation college, seeing a minority is like seeing a kangaroo on campus! Affirmative motion means possibly you admitted individuals who didn’t have the identical check scores as others, however we have been all profitable.

When I used to be rising up, individuals within the South have been nonetheless going to segregated colleges, however I went to an built-in college in Lansing from kindergarten on up. You find out about different individuals, and also you learn to specific your opinions to one another. You be taught to speak. There remains to be a necessity at present to deliver collectively individuals and blend them up. I actually consider within the idea of variety. I consider it challenges stereotypes, strengthens workplaces and communities, and promotes a psychologically wholesome society.

Education is energy — and it has no coloration. When I say that, I imply it’s for everyone. It has no coloration. By merely having information, information is energy. I’ll by no means lose any of the schooling that I acquired from my regulation diploma or my LL.M. [master’s of laws] — it’s a part of me. It’s my secret energy.

On the subject of her best satisfaction, which is the ladies she has mentored, nurtured, and helped grow to be assistant professors, Ok12 directors, instructional consultants, and educational designers.

It’s my Baby Docs. Yes, my Baby Docs. [Davenport refers to the students in her educational doctoral programs as “Baby Docs.”]

When I used to be youthful, if I wished to do one thing, I did it! You can all the time strive one thing as soon as. So I attempt to relate to them on that degree, on their degree. I deliver my experiences with me to them. I deliver Liz! She comes with me wherever I am going.

Most of them have been girls. I feel I solely graduated three males. One of my Baby Docs is considering accepting a job right here at Alabama State this fall. Another one is already right here. I didn’t have kids, however the relationships that I’ve with these girls may be very robust. I feel now we have nurtured one another.

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