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Saginaw Valley State University Professor Honored as 2019 Higher Educator of the Year

Michigan educator honored at NEA Representative Assembly

HOUSTON - July 06, 2019 -

David Schneider, a communications professor at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) in University Center, Michigan, was honored as the 2019 Higher Educator of the Year at the NEA Representative Assembly in Houston, Texas.

“It’s been a humbling and moving experience to be recognized in this way,” says Schneider.

Although Schneider was unable to attend the annual meeting, National Council for Higher Education President DeWayne Schneider spoke on his behalf. “Our honoree, David, exemplifies so much of what is best in our profession. He has improved the college experience of students through his student-centered learning and research methods. He’s applied those learnings to his own classes and campus, but also shared his knowledge at national conferences. He’s a trailblazer, helping to challenge his peers.”

Schneider, a professor of communications and union leader who is entering his 34th year at SVSU, has served as chief negotiator for his union since 1996, as president of his local union, and as president and board member of the Michigan Association of Higher Education. “His message has been that the community benefits by strong cooperation and support,” writes his Michigan colleague Colleen Pilgrim, of Schoolcraft College, who nominated Schneider.

Schneider believes that faculty need to be excellent and effective teachers of college students, and he’s passionate about the issue of student retention. Research shows that at comprehensive universities, like SVSU, as many as 50 percent of students will not earn a certificate or degree within six years. In his trainings, Schneider tells his colleagues that the problem isn’t always academic preparation. “The research reveals that students need to develop a sense of belonging on their campuses—and faculty can help,” says Schneider.

At SVSU, which respects the long-held principal of “shared governance” in higher ed, in which faculty and administrators share the governance of the institution, union members have equal say in matters of curriculum and academic program development. Faculty understand that the union gives them a seat at the table.

Schneider sees challenges in higher education today. When he attended college decades ago, the state of Michigan covered three-quarters of the cost while students shouldered about one-quarter of the tuition burden. Today, the proportion is reversed: the state pays about one-quarter of the cost, while student tuition has skyrocketed to cover the balance. Struggling students and families incur enormous student debt.

Schneider was honored alongside the 2019 Teacher of the Year and the Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. He is the second-ever winner of the NEA Higher Educator of the Year award. Last year’s winner, Loretta Ragsdell, is an adjunct English professor at the City Colleges of Chicago.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at

Celeste Busser, NEA Communications

  2019 Representative Assembly