Vernese Edghill-Walden ’87It's no exaggeration to say that attending Bucknell was a life-changing experience for Vernese Edghill-Walden '87 (sociology), for the leadership opportunities she had in college are what led to her career in higher education administration. "When I realized that I could continue to do as a professional what I was doing at Bucknell as a student - and get paid for it - I knew exactly what I wanted," she says.

When Edghill-Walden was a student, apartheid and women's rights were big issues, and as president of the University's NAACP chapter and a member of the Minority Student Union, she helped to organize cultural events, lectures and demonstrations in support of human rights. Her undergraduate research into how predominantly white colleges can develop support systems to help minority student retention helped to convince the Bucknell administration to establish the Office of Multicultural Student Services in her senior year.

Edghill-Walden began her academic career as minority student adviser at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and then as assistant dean/director of the Center for Black Culture and Multicultural Programs at the University of Delaware. After earning a doctorate in sociology, she moved on to the City Colleges of Chicago, where today she is associate vice chancellor for general education. "I am still very much a student advocate. These days I serve students by effecting change on the academic side - making sure students have access to the courses that they need, ensuring that the faculty are qualified, and working to develop partnerships across disciplines to best serve our students," she says.

Her work benefits some 120,000 students who attend the seven colleges and seven satellite sites that make up the City Colleges of Chicago, one of the largest community college systems in the nation. "We serve a very diverse population of students of all ages and nationalities, including large communities of Polish, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern students," she says.

Reflecting back over her career, Edghill-Walden says she is most grateful to her parents, who convinced her to attend Bucknell. "Hands down, it was probably one of the best experiences for me as a young adult," she says.