Sheri Atkinson (EdD ’14) realized early in her career that working in higher education was the best way to make a meaningful contribution to the world. “I have a passion for social justice, and that type of work can take place in a number of different contexts,” she said. “The college environment is a special place for doing this type of work because you’re impacting the lives of students who are full of energy and the potential for growth. For me, it’s about making space to give back to the field of education that helped support me in my own growth.”
Atkinson joined the UC Davis community and the Division of Student Affairs in 2003, serving for a decade as the director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center and then as the executive director of Community Resource & Retention Centers. In her current position as Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life, Campus Community and Retention Services at UC Davis, she supervises students and staff committed to student success. From community-specific academic retention initiatives and resource centers to systemwide campus climate reporting to student governance, Atkinson’s colleagues at the Division of Student Affairs play an important role in the lives of every UC Davis student. “It’s an honor to have this job and be able to work with all of these people,” said Atkinson. “I oversee a talented group doing the hard work while I help remove barriers so they can keep doing the great things they do.”
Atkinson was drawn to the CANDEL program because its focus on social justice and educational equity mirrored her own values. She also felt that a doctorate in educational leadership would help her better serve students.
“The CANDEL program helped me be a more competitive candidate for career opportunities,” Atkinson said, “but it also has enhanced my ability to be a scholar-practitioner. Education leaders do a lot of work, and we go really quickly and are constantly busy. The CANDEL program carves out intentional time for you to stop, pause and think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’re doing it. Analyzing that in a broader context and engaging in the academic literature around the field of education allows you to be critical about your own work and make more effective decisions.”