Press Release

AAC&U Honors Graduate Students as Future Leaders of Higher Education

Washington, DC—The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today the 2023 recipients of the annual K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award. This award recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education and who are committed to academic innovation in the areas of equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning. The awards honor the work of K. Patricia Cross, professor of higher education, emerita, at the University of California, Berkeley.

The 2023 recipients are:

  • Jedaidah Chilufya, Plant Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Elizabeth Kelley, Chemistry, University of Chicago
  • Nicholas B. Lacy, Communication, Purdue University
  • Jannell McConnell Parsons, English, University of Kentucky
  • Kirby J. Schmidt, Agricultural Education, Oregon State University
  • Britt Threatt, Africana Studies, Brown University
  • Jordan Westcott, Counselor Education, Virginia Tech
  • Clint Whitten, Foundations of Education, Virginia Tech
  • Ashley S. Wright, Higher Education Leadership, University of Dayton

The recipients were chosen in a rigorous process from a pool of nominees who have demonstrated the potential for leadership and innovation in the areas of equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning. The Cross Award is open to all doctoral-level graduate students who are planning a career in higher education, regardless of academic department, and have been nominated by a faculty member or administrator. Graduate students in fields where the master’s degree is the terminal degree are also eligible.

“We are truly grateful to Pat Cross for her deep and abiding commitment to championing the next generation of leaders in higher education. Their stories are amazingly diverse and, taken together, give us a vision of leadership that will serve our increasingly complex society. We are thrilled to honor them and look forward to the many ways in which they will shape the future of higher education,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella

Recognizing the deep pool of talent among the nominations for the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, all finalists for the award—including the winners—are being inducted into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society.

Fifty-six graduate students were selected to be part of the 2023 cohort of the AAC&U Future Leaders Society. Members of the society have access to unique, cross-disciplinary opportunities for professional development, networking, and mentorship. Through a collaboration between OneHE and AAC&U, these future leaders also have access to faculty training and development resources, as well as an exclusive virtual community designed to support ongoing engagement, collaboration, and support. AAC&U’s Future Leaders Society is generously supported by the L. Lee Knefelkamp Fund.

“The inductees into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society share a profound commitment to high-quality teaching and learning, equity, and community engagement,” said Kathryn Enke, Strategist for Presidential Initiatives at AAC&U. “AAC&U is honored to recognize their accomplishments as graduate students and to support their potential to shape the future of higher education.”

The 2023 Cross Award winners and Future Leaders Society inductees will be recognized at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting, “Reclaiming Liberal Education,” which will be held in San Francisco on January 18–20. Honorees will be introduced to the AAC&U community during the opening plenary session.

About AAC&U

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is a global membership organization dedicated to advancing the democratic purposes of higher education by promoting equity, innovation, and excellence in liberal education. Through our programs and events, publications and research, public advocacy, and campus-based projects, AAC&U serves as a catalyst and facilitator for innovations that improve educational quality and equity and that support the success of all students. In addition to accredited public and private, two-year, and four-year colleges and universities and state higher education systems and agencies throughout the United States, our membership includes degree-granting higher education institutions in more than twenty-five countries as well as other organizations and individuals. To learn more, visit