By Joe Garvey

Don Stansberry, the interim vice president for Student Engagement & Enrollment Services (SEES), Retention Coordinator Samantha Palmucci and Old Dominion University's Center for Social Mobility earned national and regional recognition this spring from NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Stansberry received the Region III Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award. Palmucci was named the William Leftwich Outstanding New Professional Award winner for Region III and selected as a NASPA NOW Professional, a national honor that recognizes exceptional contributions from new professionals and graduate students. The Center for Social Mobility won the Silver Award for Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice as part of the 2020 Excellence Awards.

Stansberry's award honors a senior student affairs professional or faculty member who has demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion throughout his or her administrative or academic tenure.

Stansberry leads the areas of student engagement, student success, enrollment services and institutional research. During his time at the University, ODU has been recognized as one of the top 15 universities nationally for African-American student success.

In nomination letters, his colleagues remarked on the numerous diversity projects he has championed and his work with the Center for Social Mobility, which he helped establish in 2018.

"At ODU, Academic Affairs very much values the leadership provided by Dr. Stansberry and the Center for Social Mobility and uses their programming to ensure that faculty and staff are aware of social mobility initiatives that will have the most significant impact in the lives of our students," Vice Provost Brian Payne wrote.

"Dr. Stansberry's work has had a national impact; conversations from the ODU Social Mobility Symposium in June 2018 led to the adoption of new measures for social mobility in the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings," Associate Dean of Students Bridget Weikel said. "What began as a grassroots effort to provide advocacy, the Center has gained national recognition. Old Dominion University is being awarded CollegeNET's Social Mobility Innovator Award - one of 10 higher education institutions in the country honored for their work promoting social mobility. Dr. Stansberry's leadership is instrumental in how we are transforming educational programs and innovative services that promote access."

The Center for Social Mobility is at the forefront of higher education social mobility issues and focuses on approaches institutions can take to support students and promote social mobility. It is one of the only social mobility centers in the country housed at an institution that serves a large population of low-income and underrepresented students. The center plans to conduct its third National Social Mobility Symposium in a virtual format this summer and fall.

"The Center for Social Mobility serves as a catalyst for many institutions of higher education to intentionally focus on changing the lives of some the nation's most challenged populations," said Georj L. Lewis, president of Atlanta Metropolitan State College and a strong collaborator with the center. "Specifically, my involvement as a participant in the National Social Mobility Symposium has helped me lead the way on my campus in working to eradicate the invisible barriers that sometimes interfere with the success of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students."

Palmucci, who received her master's degree from ODU, has been in her current position in the Dean of Students office since January 2018. Her duties include:

  • Developing measurable retention strategies for the first-year cohort by collaborating with key departmental supervisors.
  • Case-managing first-year students facing academic, financial and personal obstacles.
  • Identifying and executing unique programming and outreach techniques to foster success for at-risk student populations.
  • Supporting strategic retention goals by executing registration calling campaigns.
  • Leading the Food Insecurity Committee to develop and implement proactive programming and initiatives.

"As a new professional, she can connect short-term goals to long-term vision, assess and prioritize student needs, and implement inventive programming to meet students where they are developmentally," Sherri Watson, director of the Center for Major Exploration and Mane Connect Success Coaching, wrote in a nominating letter. "I have witnessed her transform retention practices at Old Dominion, but more importantly, transform students' lives."

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