Tonisha Lane, an associate professor in the Virginia Tech School of Education, has been selected as a part of ACPA - College Student Educators International (ACPA) Foundation’s Diamond Honoree Class of 2024. 

The association is an internationally recognized leadership organization that was started in 1924 for professionals in student affairs and higher education. The Diamond Honoree Program is considered to be one of the association’s highest honors and is reserved for those who have demonstrated a commitment to making a difference in the lives of students and colleagues in higher education. Lane will be one of 18 Diamond Honorees recognized at the association’s convention in March 2024 in Chicago, Illinois.

In her research, Lane studies the experiences and outcomes of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Her research also focuses on the retention and well-being of Black students and professionals in higher education. Lane has been recognized with other awards, including being named a McKnight Fellow (2017), an ACPA Emerging Scholar (2018), and a National Center for Institutional Diversity Emerging Scholar. 

Gerard Lawson, interim director of the School of Education, said it’s no surprise to him that ACPA chose Lane to be a Diamond Honoree. 

“Dr. Lane is a wonderful example of the impact that faculty in the School of Education have on their students and on the world around them. Her dedication to supporting and advancing students and faculty of color in higher education not only provides a roadmap for how this can be done, Dr. Lane actually demonstrates this day in and day out at Virginia Tech,” said Lawson. “The way that she models more than just inclusion, but really a sense of belonging among students in the Higher Education program, shows those students how to create the next generation of inclusive campuses."

Colleagues, dubbed “champions,” raise funds in honor of the diamond honoree’s commitment to higher education, student affairs and student development. The funds are then used to support the association’s foundation in its support of research, scholarship and programs that further the field. 

Lane attended her first Diamond Honoree award ceremony in 2022 to support one of her co-champions who was being honored that year, Shetina Jones. Jones serves as the Associate Vice President for Student Experience for the University of Windsor. Lane said knowing she’ll be back at the ceremony next year to accept the honor herself is a full circle moment. 

ACPA Black Summit for Student Affairs Professionals pre-conference
Photo taken at the ACPA-College Student Educators International conference. (From left to right): Dr. D’Andra Mull, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University of Colorado Boulder, Rev. Sam Offer, Vice President, The Washington Consulting Group; Dr. Jasmine Lee, Vice President, Equity & Inclusion, Goucher, College; 2024 ACPA Diamond Honoree, Dr. Tonisha Lane, Assistant Professor, Higher Education, Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockerel, Vice President for Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Ebony Ramsey, Assistant Dean, Maryville University of Saint Louis, Dr. Jonath McElderry, Dean of Student Inclusive Excellence& Assistant Professor of Higher Education, Elon University

“It was different when I was a Master’s student or a Ph.D. student and it was a lot of my faculty and senior colleagues getting these awards. Then, when you see people in your age group or at the same professional level as you honored and then being honored yourself, it’s so amazing. The first feelings I had were giddiness, excitement and just the realization of, ‘Wow, I’m really going to be on that stage and sharing my story as well as advancing the platform of ACPA and all that they believe in.’” 

Claire Robbins, an associate professor with the Virginia Tech School of Education, and Chase Catalano, an assistant professor with the school, served as co-champions along with Jones for Lane’s campaign. 

“Dr. Lane has influenced countless lives as a steadfast colleague, generous collaborator, generative scholar, inspiring educator, and dedicated mentor,” said Robbins. “She makes a difference every day through her contributions to student affairs and higher education, and I could not be more proud to know her.” 

Below is an excerpt from the nomination letter written by Lane’s co-chairs to the trustees of the ACPA Foundation: 

“Dr. Lane is generous with her time, intellect, insights, and support of educators at all levels and realms of student affairs. She is gracious and humble, which can make her consistent dedication and contributions easy to overlook. We, however, as her champions, can attest to how she has a tremendous and steady impact in the field and believe she is more than worthy of recognition as a Diamond Honoree. Dr. Lane has influenced numerous educators with her research, scholarship, teaching, and support who we are confident would delight in the opportunity to contribute to her campaign.” 

For those looking to follow in Lane’s footsteps, she said there is no substitute for hard work. She also highlighted the importance of networking and mentorship, stressing that DEI work is lifelong work that must be shared and that success is not worth it if it isn’t used to uplift others. 

Her parting words of advice? 

“Enjoy the ride, to be honest,” said Lane. “It’s been a lot of long nights and struggles, but there are also glimpses of joy and celebration. This Diamond Honoree award being an example of that. Hanging out with friends at conferences, going to receptions, some of us even hang out outside of professional settings. So along with the hard work and dedication, networking and mentoring, find time for celebration.”

Written by Samantha Smith