Episode Host

Heather Shea Gasser

Heather Shea Gasser

Heather Shea Gasser’s career in student affairs spans 16+ years and five different campuses, and involves experience in many different functional areas including residence life, multicultural affairs, women’s centers, student activities, leadership development, and commuter/nontraditional student services–she is a true Student Affairs Generalist. Heather is currently serving as the assistant director of RISE (Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment), a living-learning community at Michigan State University while also a full-time doctoral student in MSU's HALE (Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education) Program. She completed her master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University in 2000. She currently serves as the Director of Membership Development for ACPA-College Student Educators International and blogs for Feminists in Student Affairs. Connect with Heather on Twitter at @heathergasser


Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier

Dr. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier currently serves as the Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, in which she oversees all divisional facilities, finances, assessment, strategic planning, human resources, the Norris University Center, and Division Services (SAIT, Student Affairs Marketing, Special Projects, Night Safety Transit), as well as oversees all communications and board matters for the Vice President. She earned her B.S. degree in Genetics and her M.Ed. degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education from Texas A&M University-College Station, and her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Administrations and Foundations from Indiana State University. Dr. Payne-Kirchmeier teaches college student development in the Master of Science in Higher Education program at Northwestern University.

During her administrative tenure, Dr. Payne-Kirchmeier has been highly involved in professional associations, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I), ACPA College Student Educators, and served as Conference Host and President of the Great Lakes Association of College and University Housing Officers (GLACUHO). She currently serves as the NASPA IV-E Regional Director-elect, is a member of the NASPA Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice (JSARP) Editorial Board, serves on the Center for Women Board for NASPA, and chairs the Certification Commission for NACAS.

A long-time advocate for women’s rights and feminism in higher education, Dr. Payne-Kirchmeier is also deeply invested in politics in higher education. Most recently, Dr. Payne-Kirchmeier was honored to facilitate a discussion at the 2016 ACUHO-I Annual Conference and Exposition with Donna Brazile and Ana Navarro. As she puts it, the Presidential election “is like my Super Bowl”.


Dr. Vijay Pendakur

Dr. Vijay Pendakur will begin serving as Dean of Students at Cornell University in January 2017.  Prior to this appointment, he worked as an Associate Vice President for Student Affairs at California State University – Fullerton.  Before joining the team at Fullerton, Dr. Pendakur served as the Director for the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University in Chicago.  He is the editor of the recent book, “Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success,” published by Stylus Publishing.  His primary research interests are focused on Asian American racial identity development, Critical Race Theory, and creating ecosystems for student success.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and East Asian studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a master’s degree in U.S. history from the University of California, San Diego, and a doctorate in education from DePaul University.


Dr. Nancy Thomas

Dr. Nancy Thomas directs the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, conducting research and providing assistance to colleges and universities to advance student political learning and participation in democracy. The Institute’s signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), is a large dataset for research and provides each of the 900+ participating colleges and universities with their students’ aggregate voting rates. Her work and scholarship center on higher education’s democratic mission, college student political learning and engagement, free speech and academic freedom, and deliberative democracy on campuses and in communities. She is the author of multiple book chapters, articles, and the monograph,Educating for Deliberative Democracy. She is an associate editor of the Journal of Public Deliberation and a senior associate with Everyday Democracy.