Center for Women

Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Center for Women

The NASPA Center for Scholarship, Research, and Professional Development for Women examines and advocates issues of concern to women in higher education and student affairs. It designs and implements relevant programs, services, advocacy, and mentoring opportunities for women professionals and students. The Center encourages, in particular, research by women, for women, and about women in student affairs and about women students.

This year the Center for Women Board is focused on Meaningful Mentorship, examined through monthly conversations that are free to NASPA members. Visit the Meaningful Mentorship series page for more information and to register. 

The Center for Women is accepting applications for 2024-2026 Board terms. Apply here Friday, May 17. 

Message from the Chair

For the past 20 years, the Center for Women Board has worked diligently to provide resources and a voice for women across the academy. Through our celebration of faculty, staff, and students with the Ruth Strang and Zenobia Hikes awards; collaboration with Journal for Women and Gender in Higher Education; our programming focused on authentic leadership and mentoring; our support of professional development opportunities like Women’s Leadership Institute and Alice Manicur Symposium for women who aspire to be VPSAs; and through the hard work and good will of our board members who create opportunities for development, discourse, and diversity – it is my esteemed honor to represent the women of NASPA and beyond as the Chair of the Center for Women Board! I look forward to connecting in genuine ways throughout this year of service.

- Acquanetta Pinkard, Ph.D., Board Chair


What the Center for Women Does:

  • Serves as an information, networking, and funding resource to support women in producing scholarship and research in the field
  • Offers a professional home in NASPA for women, including leaders in women's centers
  • Partners with other organizations who are looking at various issues affecting the education and advancement of women
  • Publishes an annual journal for scholarship and research on women
  • Provides mentoring possibilities for women through our Meaningful Mentorship series
  • Collaborates with other organizations that focus on professional development for women


In 2001, then NASPA Executive Director, Gwen Dungy drafted a proposal to create a Center for Scholarship, Research, and Professional Development for Women to honor the legacy of the National Association of Women in Education (NAWE).

NAWE was founded in 1915 as a professional association for deans of women (NADW) and evolved into an association addressing issues in higher education focused on the interests of women educators and students. As professional opportunities for women in education expanded, organizations for women began to lose ground. Such was the case with NAWE. In 2000, the association disbanded, transferring some of its programs to NASPA.

The NASPA Center for Women proposed to advance NAWE's work by addressing educational issues relevant to women in higher education. The mission for the Center was to "examine issues of concern to women in education, matters of policy development, and the design and implementation of relevant programs and services for women students." The Center was also envisioned as a professional home for women who are leaders in women's centers.

NASPA President Shannon Ellis championed the Center for Women proposal, and under her presidency, it was approved by the NASPA Board for implementation in 2001.

Mission Statement

The NASPA Center for Scholarship and Professional Development for Women (Center for Women) amplifies issues concerning individuals who identify as women in higher education. It designs and implements relevant programs, services, advocacy and mentoring opportunities for women professionals. The Center encourages, in particular, research by, for, and about women in higher education.


Congratulations to our 2024 Award Winners

2024 Ruth Strang Research Award Recipient

Dr. Vanessa Martinez, Graduate and Retention Advising Specialist/Counselor, California State University - Northridge
Dissertation: La Lucha Continúa (The Struggle Continues): Latina/o/x First-generation College Student Persistence at a Hispanic Serving Institution

Dr. Vanessa L. Martínez is the Graduation-Retention Advising Specialist at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) College of Humanities Dean’s Office. Dr. Martínez is a Researcher and Mentor for CSUN LAEP, preparing college students for access to graduate school. She is the Creator-Lecturer of the Career Readiness & Professional Development course at CSUN. Her comprehensive career in higher education and counseling psychology mental health is a culmination of eighteen years in numerous transformational leadership roles in student-academic affairs (public/private 2–4–year institutions) in California, Washington, Idaho, and Wisconsin. Dr. Martínez delivers student-centered counseling, mentoring, and training; educating college students, staff, faculty, administrators, and diverse communities across the nation.

As a California Native/Indigenous Chicana Latina, daughter of an Indigenous Chicana and Mexican-immigrant migrant-farmworkers, her research-advocacy focuses on intersectional multicultural identities, Indigenous, Chicana/o/x Latina/o/x, BIPOC higher education experiences. She specializes in Indigenous Chicana/o/x Latino/a/x student resilience, ethnic identity, discrimination, psychological well-being, acculturation, familism, spirituality, first-generation-to-college students, strengths-based approaches to challenges and coping, and psychosociocultural factors influencing persistence and retention in higher education.

Dr. Martínez volunteers in the Governance Committee for the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AHHEE) and in NASPA, Latina/o/x Knowledge Community (LKC), Indigenous People’s Knowledge Community (IPKC), and Women in Student Affairs (WISA) Community. In addition to her work and mentorship, Dr. Martínez co-supervises the College of Humanities Career Graduate Assistant in the Career Center as part of the Humanities Career Initiative Plan at her alma mater California State University, Northridge.

2024 Zenobia Hikes Memorial Award Recipient

Dr. Kimberly Thornton, Associate Provost for Campus Life, Texas Tech University

Dr. Kimberly Thornton is the Assistant Vice Provost for Campus Life at Texas Tech University and has 20 years of experience in higher education. Currently, she oversees the areas of student involvement, spirit, fraternity and sorority life, military and veteran programs, and the chess program in Student Life. 

Thornton received a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University (2001), a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (2003), and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership – Higher Administration from Louisiana Tech University (2017).

Previously, she spent six years at Texas Tech University overseeing the Center for Campus Life to include the fraternity & sorority life office, spirit program, Raider Red’s food pantry and student involvement. Prior to Texas Tech University, Thornton spent 12 years at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Shreveport in a variety of roles to include student activities, student involvement, fraternity and sorority life, admissions and career services. 

Thornton currently teaches an introduction to women and gender studies course, is a certified Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) instructor at Texas Tech and an active alumni member of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity, having served in multiple leadership roles at the national level. 


The Center for Women will recognize these scholar-practioners at the 2024 NASPA Annual Conference. 

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One of the best resources available to you is the wide range of professional development opportunities. This list contains both our “Hosted Events,” workshops and webinars that we plan and manage, and some “Related Events,” hosted by the NASPA Central Office or other NASPA Constituent Groups. To see a full listing of NASPA events, please see the Events page.