Campus Life

Student Affairs Staff Members Earn National Honors

Two Aggie professionals were recognized at the 2024 NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Annual Conference
By Olivia Garza '23, Texas A&M University Division of Student Affairs April 5, 2024

Dr. Darby Roberts and Dr. Lauren Brown posing with their NASPA awards
(l-r) Lauren Brown and Darby Roberts pose with their awards at this year’s NASPA conference.

Courtesy photo


Two Texas A&M student affairs professionals were recognized at the 2024 NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Annual Conference. The event was held last month in Seattle, Washington. The conference is regarded as a premier professional development opportunity in student affairs and hosts over 6,000 professionals.

Pillar of the Profession — Dr. Darby Roberts

Roberts, director of the department of Student Affairs Planning, Assessment and Research has been recognized as a 2024 Pillar of the Profession by NASPA. The NASPA Pillars of the Profession Award, presented annually at the NASPA Annual Conference, acknowledges distinguished individuals who have served as leaders, teachers and scholars in student affairs and higher education.

“Since my early days in grad school, NASPA has been my professional development home,” Roberts said.  “I’ve been an active participant in the organization and over the years taken on increasing responsibility and contributions to the profession.”

 A small sample of Roberts’ involvement with student affairs includes co-authoring Student Affairs Assessment: Theory to Practice and Frameworks for Assessing Learning and Development Outcomes and co-editing Learning is Not a Sprint: Assessing and Documenting Student Leader Learning in Cocurricular Involvement and New Directions in Student Leadership: Assessing Student Leadership.  She is also an instructor in the Higher Education Administration graduate school program at Texas A&M

Roberts has been the director of Student Affairs Planning, Assessment and Research for 11 years and has worked for the department since its  creation in 1998. “The role of our department is to help other departments in the division of Student Affairs and Student Organizations really find answers to the big questions they have so that they can improve the student experience at Texas A&M,” Roberts said.

The award is based on nominations from NASPA members, family members and students. “Dr. Darby Roberts’ being named a NASPA Pillar of the Profession resonates deeply, reflecting her exceptional career in Student Affairs Assessment and unwavering dedication to both NASPA’s mission and the broader Student Affairs profession,” Dr. Justin Jeffery, student affairs assistant vice president said. “At Texas A&M University, Dr. Roberts has played an integral role in fostering excellence within the field, exemplifying a commitment to student learning and selfless service that extends far beyond our campus. As a colleague, I take great pride in Dr. Roberts’ achievements, knowing that her impact is felt not only within Texas A&M but throughout the national landscape of student affairs.”

Dissertation of the Year — Dr. Lauren Brown

Student Affairs Coordinator Brown has been honored with the Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award by NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. This prestigious award aims to promote high-quality research pertinent to college student services administration and student affairs. It specifically acknowledges outstanding dissertation research conducted by doctoral degree recipients currently in or planning to enter the student affairs profession.

Brown’s awarded dissertation is titled “A Critical Analysis of Student Affairs Framing and Response to Expressive Activity.” Her comprehensive study examines how expressive activity is discussed and handled within the higher education system in the United States.

“It’s important to holistically support students and look at what language student affairs professionals are using as they engage with expressive activities on a college campus.” Brown says cultivating awareness around this language is an important part of creating a campus environment where students feel safe to exercise their first amendment rights.

When Brown got the news that her dissertation had won, she was blown away. “I think I was at home eating a bowl of cereal and my jaw just fell open,” she said. This recognition holds a lot of meaning for her, since this subject matter is something she felt called to write about. In the seven years she’s worked at Texas A&M, Brown has spent a lot of time working with student organizations and serving on the expressive activity committee. Supporting students during events such as demonstrations or protests has been an aspect of her role, and her research looks at best practices for providing such support. “It was really encouraging to see that this research is important to other people too,” she said.

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