Wawrzynski named Pillar of the Profession

May 7, 2019

Associate Professor Matthew Wawrzynski was recognized for his distinguished career during the recent 2019 NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education conference.

Wawrzynski received one of the highest honors for the association when he was named a Pillar of the Profession. The Pillars are notable figures in the field, recognized for their contributions as leaders, teachers and scholars in student affairs and higher education.

He is only the second faculty member from MSU to have received the honor in the award’s 20-year history, following Department of Educational Administration Chairperson Marilyn Amey’s recognition in 2017.

“There have been only a few times in my life where I have been speechless—this was one,” said Wawrzynski. “It’s a huge honor—to be recognized by the leading student affairs organization is a highlight of my career.”

He has been a part of NASPA for nearly 30 years, and served as the executive editor for the association’s Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice from 2012-18.

He is totally committed to student affairs and the ways in which professionals in this field make a fundamental difference in student success and student learning outcomes. Matt Wawrzynski represents the best of what we mean by a Pillar of the Profession …

Marilyn Amey, Department of Educational Administration Chair, in her nomination letter for the Pillar of the Profession recognition.

At MSU, he is part of the Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) programs, and has built his research career around examining how college environments, particularly cocurricular experiences, influence student learning. One of his areas of expertise is living-learning communities—he is co-author of “Living-Learning Communities That Work: A Research-Based Model for Design, Delivery, and Assessment” (Stylus Publishing, 2018).

“We say ‘student involvement’ is important in higher education—but what do we really mean by that?” he asks in his research.

Global and national leader

Since 2007, Wawrzynski has been working to answer that question in South Africa as well. He works with higher education institutions to think about how to assess the quality and value of curricular and cocurricular learning outcomes. Further, every other year, he co-leads a trip to bring a group of HALE graduate students to Nelson Mandela University in South Africa to add to that research—and initiate their own research trajectories.

Matt Wawrzynski’s dedication to the student affairs profession extends beyond the boundaries of any one campus, one program or one professional organization or publication. He has worked to share knowledge about student development and learning outcomes with generations of professionals around the world.

Janet Cox, Dean of Students, Mount St. Joseph University

In the U.S., some of his longstanding work has been on peer education. Wawrzynski—a 2009 American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Diamond Honoree, one of the highest honors from the organization—has directed a national study on peer education with researchers and MSU graduate students.

The National Peer Educator Survey—funded through grant support from the BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA—examines the experiences, training and learning outcomes of peer educators across the country. The survey began in fall 2005, and since has collected data from more than 400 institutions and thousands of students.

Wawrzynski helped develop practical training materials for peer educators based on findings from the ongoing data collection, which has benefited and will continue to help hundreds of thousands of students in higher education across the U.S.

“My work has been on trying to change practices on college and university campuses to be beneficial for all students,” he said.

Wawrzynski was officially recognized as a Pillar of the Profession by NASPA during the organization’s annual conference in March 2019.


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