Press Release

Graduate Students Honored as Future Leaders of Higher Education

Nine recipients honored with K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award; An inaugural cohort of 57 students inducted into AAC&U’s Future Leaders Society

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today the 2022 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 2022 recipients are:

  • Becca Bassett, Education, Harvard University
  • Dale Brown, Interdisciplinary Studies (Philosophy & Educational Foundations), Western Michigan University
  • Erin Cassin, Biology, University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • Cynthia Garcia-Eidell, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Caleb González, Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy, The Ohio State University
  • Teresa Hernández, English, University of Oregon
  • Whitney Tsai Nakashima, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • J. Paul Padilla, Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English, University of Arizona
  • Aireale J. Rodgers, Higher Education, University of Southern California

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 an American higher education 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 American 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, beginning this year, all finalists for the award—including the winners—are being inducted into AAC&U’s Future Leaders Society.

Fifty-seven graduate students were selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of AAC&U’s 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 AAC&U’s 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 2022 Cross Award winners and Future Leaders Society inductees will be recognized at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting, “Educating for Democracy,” which will be held on January 19–21. Honorees will be introduced to the AAC&U community during the opening plenary session.

For more information about AAC&U, its annual meeting, the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, or AAC&U’s Future Leaders Society, visit

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,000 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges. For more information, visit