Press Release

Seven Graduate Students Honored with K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities announced today the 2019 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; who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and in others; and whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning. The awards honor the work of K. Patricia Cross, professor of higher education, emerita, at the University of California–Berkeley.

The 2019 recipients are:

  • Brianna Benedict, Engineering Education, Purdue University
  • Naniette H. Coleman, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Andrew Katz, Engineering Education, Purdue University
  • Aurora B. Le, Public Health, Indiana University
  • Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner, Philosophy, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Michigan State University
  • Hannah Volkman, Public Health, University of Minnesota
  • Arley R. Ward, II, History, University of Arkansas

The 2019 recipients were chosen in a rigorous process from a pool of 200 nominations from 120 institutions, noting the recipients’ demonstrated or potential leadership abilities in teaching and learning and their strong commitment to academic and civic responsibility. The Cross Award is open to all doctoral-level graduate students who are planning a career in higher education, regardless of academic department, nominated by a faculty member or administrator.

“We are truly grateful to Pat Cross for her deep and abiding commitment to championing the next generation of leaders in higher education. This year’s scholars have demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship, leadership, and civic engagement. We are delighted 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.

“This year’s scholars are serious and published researchers, award-winning teachers, campus leaders, and catalysts for campus/community involvement. Their stories are amazingly diverse . . . and, taken together . . . give us a vision of an American higher education that will serve our increasingly complex society,” said K. Patricia Cross.

This year, we remember and honor L. Lee Knefelkamp, AAC&U senior scholar and a member of the Cross Award selection committee every year until her passing. Lee was an extraordinary scholar, teacher, and mentor. Nowhere was that more evident to AAC&U than in her passionate commitment to AAC&U’s K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, with which Lee had been centrally affiliated since it began. A close friend and professional colleague of Pat Cross, Lee honored Pat’s own contribution to higher education by nurturing, with care and specificity, a new generation of the professoriate to become pathbreaking scholars, committed teachers, and socially caring professionals concerned about the larger world we inhabit together. She helped select the scholars and developed a recurring special session at AAC&U’s annual meeting tailored to put them at the center, inspiring and stretching boundaries of those already firmly ensconced in academia. Her generosity and warmth toward every generation of Pat Cross Scholars always affirmed their value and their potential to continue to transform higher education and work magic in the classroom.

“At a time of much scrutiny for higher education, the K. Patricia Cross Scholars serve as a reminder of how bright the future of college learning is,” said Ashley Finley, AAC&U Senior Advisor to the President and Secretary to the Board. “These future leaders share a profound commitment to educating students for a world dependent upon equity, an active democracy, and the skills of a liberal education. Pat Cross’ legacy of innovation and engagement in the classroom is well-represented by these seven scholars and educators. AAC&U is honored to recognize their accomplishments as graduate students and their vast potential to shape the future of higher education.”

The 2019 Cross Scholars will be recognized at AAC&U’s 2019 Annual Meeting, “Raising Our Voices: Reclaiming the Narrative on the Value of Higher Education” in Atlanta, Georgia, January 23–26. They will be honored and introduced to the AAC&U community during the Opening Plenary and will speak in the session, “Faculty of the Future: Voices from the Next Generation.” The Cross Award recipients will also participate in other sessions and meetings throughout the conference.

For more information about AAC&U, its Annual Meeting, or the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, 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 1,400 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.

Information about AAC&U can be found at