WASHINGTON – Bonniejean Alford, MA (Sociology and Communication) has been named as the 2022 NCHE/NEA Higher Educator of the Year. Nominated by fellow adjunct instructor, Clara Rogers-Green (Math instructor), Alford previously won the student nominated teacher of the year for her division at College of DuPage. Alford has taught Sociology for more than twenty years, the last fifteen of which have been at College of DuPage. Using a transdisciplinary approach to teaching, Alford challenges her students to think beyond the definitions of the material, including utilizing tools such as the Walking Dead television show, novels, and fairy tales to exemplify how the real world operates with regard to sociological concepts. All of her work centers around her specialization in identity, for which she has been dubbed the Identity Guru.

Beyond the classroom, Alford represents her fellow adjuncts as Vice President of Policy for the College of DuPage Adjuncts Association (CODAA). Previously, she held the position of Vice President of Operations. Through her work on CODAA board, Alford has participated in several committees including the Academic Committee and Shared Governance Council (SGC). She served previously as Vice Chair and then Chair of the SGC. Currently, she holds an elected role on the Higher Education Council for the Illinois Education Association and her second two-year appointment to the Student Performance and Achievement Committee for the Glenbard District 87 Board of Trustees. She served a two-year appointment on the Communication, Legislation, and Partnerships Committee for District 87. Alford also mentored a team during the inaugural year of Glenbard East High School’s Business Incubator.

In addition to her service in higher education, Alford has served as a board member and educator with to a not-for-profit education-based performance arts group on Chicago Illinois’ south side. For a time, Alford also taught high school theatre, English, and Speech in the same south side neighborhood to kids at a high-risk alternative school. Her college connections helped to bridge the gap for many of the youth at risk for not achieving higher education.

Alford sits on the advisory board for the Certificate of Creative Writing at College of DuPage due to her work as a writer and creativity coach beyond her role as college educator. As an advisory board, members from many organizations come together to advise the college’s program directors on possible best actions for the program to serve its students. She was able to participate in a panel discussion about her role as a creative writer and even decided to complete the certificate herself during spring 2022 as a means to better understand the process students go through.

Through her company, Alford Enterprises, Alford works with authors to help them tell their story in a manner that is often educational. Many of her clients include fellow educators with whom she edits or conducts research on their behalf. The purpose in her work remains to expand knowledge and build a bridge between the real world and education in some manner. It is in this light that Alford wrote her own memoir, developed an academic-style blog, and created a podcast (Life’s a Blank on Spotify), all of which aim to shine a light on the unique voices of the world.

Her community engagement in the world both locally and globally has included working with many organizations and programs over more than thirty years of volunteerism, some of which she established herself. To name a few (not all inclusive): Amnesty International (for work on eliminating Apartheid), Free Burma Coalition, U.S. Campaign for Burma, Rape Victim Advocates (now called Resilience), Ne-Ke’s Theatre Company, CommUNITY Connection, Community-Based Learning and Service Center, and many others. She is currently in the planning stages of creating “Some Pig Enterprises,” a not-for-profit organization working to redefine beauty, build self-esteem, and end hate and bullying. Alford hopes to partner with other more established organizations to begin a three-pronged approach that includes teachers, parents, and students – as all are part of the education process.

Selected by a subcommittee of the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE)’s executive committee, the award recognizes a higher education professional with ten or more years of professional services that continually provides outstanding student service, excellence in teaching and/or working with students, and national/state/local labor-based advocacy. Members of the NCHE Executive Committee present the award at the yearly NEA Higher Education Conference. The award includes a monetary award of $10,000, made possible by the NEA Foundation, an organization founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students.

For more information on Bonniejean Alford, please visit her website at bonniejeanalford.net.

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At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.