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LaWanda Ward

LaWanda Ward
Phone: 814-863-3774
Office Address:
405F Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park


Assistant Professor of Education
Research Associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education


Education Policy Studies


Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE)


Higher Education
Higher Education: Student Affairs


Dr. LaWanda Ward’s commitment to social justice and equity in higher education is influenced by her family of educators: Her mother, a first-grade teacher for almost 30 years, marched during the Civil Rights Movement. This commitment guides Dr. Ward’s research agenda, which centers and critically analyzes legal issues in higher education, including race-conscious admissions, free speech theory interpretations, tenure and promotion, and academic freedom. Her work combines legal and qualitative research methods and draws heavily from critical race feminist theory to create insightful and practicable transdisciplinary knowledge. Her work has been published in International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education and Journal of College Student Development.

            For over 20 years before joining the professoriate, Dr. Ward served as a student affairs educator in various roles. She was introduced to higher education administration as a graduate assistant in residence life and later as a residence hall director at Illinois State University and Old Dominion University, respectively. As Director of Pro Bono & Public Interest at her alma mater Indiana University McKinney School of Law, Dr. Ward coached law students and alumni seeking traditional and nontraditional legal careers while establishing and maintaining relationships with community agencies that afforded law students rewarding and challenging opportunities to gain pro bono experience. Because of these professional experiences, Dr. Ward is deeply invested in ensuring that her teaching and scholarship can bridge gaps between research and practice in various domains of the academy.

            Dr. Ward actively participates in the Association for the Study of Higher Education, [where she currently serves on the Council for Ethnic Participation and the conference-planning Program Committee,] the American Educational Research Association[, where she currently serves on the Law and Education Special Interest Group], and the American College Personnel Association. She frequently presents at national conferences and symposia and has been invited to speak at colleges and universities.

            Before joining the Higher Education program faculty, Dr. Ward was an Assistant Professor at Ohio University. She earned a PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs with an Interdisciplinary Minor in Socio-Legal Perspectives on Race & Gender in Higher Education from Indiana University, a JD from Indiana University McKinney School of Law, an MS in Educational Administration from Old Dominion University, an MA in Political Science from Illinois State University, and a BA in Political Science from Murray State University.

Areas of Expertise

Education Levels

Professional Education

Higher Education

Higher Education

Methodological Research

Qualitative Research

Social Issues

Civil Rights and Education
Education and Law
Race and Ethnicity
Social Issues

Courses Taught

HIED 849 Legal Issues in Higher Education

HIED 560 Higher Education and the Law

HIED 808 Pro-Seminar in Higher Education

Representative Publications

Select Publications: 

Ward, L.W.M. (2020). A TribalCrit Sensibility Towards Critical Conscious Legal Literacy Engaging ACPA’s Racial Justice and Decolonization Framework. Special Issue. Target Journal: Journal of College Student Development, 61(6), 797-813.

Hardaway, A. T., Ward, L.W. M., & Howell, D. (2019). Black girls and womyn matter: Using Black Feminist Thought to examine erasure and violence against black girls and womyn in education. Urban Education Research and Policy Annuals, 6(1), 31-46.

Ward, L.W., & Nguyen, D.H.K., & Nguyen, D.J. (2018). No smoking guns here: Residence life directors’ perspectives on concealed carry in on campus living communities. Journal of College and University Student Housing, 44 (3), 113-125.

Nguyen, D.H.K., & Ward, L.W. (2016). Mutiny over strict scrutiny? Interpreting the judicial approach to race-conscious higher education admission policies. West’s Education Law Reporter, 33 (1), 1-18.

Patton, L.D., & Ward, L.W. (2016). Missing Black undergraduate women and the politics of disposability: A critical race feminism perspective. The Journal of Negro Education, 85(3), 330-349.