Chambers receives Barbara Townsend award, lecture due to research

Photo of Crystal Chambers

Dr. Crystal Chambers is the 2023 recipient of the Association for the Study of Higher Education’s Council for the Advancement of Higher Education Programs Barbara Townsend Lecture and Award.

“The award was named for Barbara Townsend who’s a trailblazer in the area of community college education specifically, but she also wrote extensively on gender and gender equity,” said Chambers, Department of Educational Leadership professor. “But beyond her writing, she was very active in setting up other women for success. To be named for an award for that person just meant a lot to me.”

Chambers’ research interest primarily focuses on Black women in academic executive leadership and their academic trajectories. She’s also interested in how to create networks that will help move people forward — not necessarily for mentorship but providing more access to opportunity.

“So much about leadership and development — who gets access — has to do with relationships,” she said.

Part of the award involves presenting a lecture during a special session of the conference. Chambers plans to center her lecture around the broken rung philosophy.

“What they’re finding is that Black women in particular tend to be on the bottom of career and leadership trajectories as per the level of education they have,” she said. “The title of my talk is climbing the corporate ladder, looking at Black women in academic executive leadership.”

The talk is a follow-up to the book that Chambers recently published, “Black Women’s Pathways to Executive Academic Leadership: Lessons from Lived Experiences.” Her book has been featured in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the Women in Academia Report and Black Enterprise Magazine.

As Chambers works on future projects in her Ragsdale office, history surrounds her.

“This is Laura Marie Leary’s old dorm room,” Chambers said. Leary was the first full-time Black student at East Carolina University.

“It’s a great thing to be back on campus, but to be in this space, to be able to channel her courage and support things she supported… I’m happy to be in this space,” Chambers said.

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