NASPA Member Spotlight: Montclair State University and Dr. Karen Pennington

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MAY'S MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Montclair State University and Dr. Karen Pennington, Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life

This month, we are excited to spotlight Montclair State University and Vice President of Student Development and Campus Life, Karen Pennington! Founded in 1908, Montclair State University offers 300 majors/programs to over 16,000 undergraduate students and over 4,000 graduate students. With nine colleges and schools, this campus located just 12 miles from New York City offers an academic and research environment that prides itself on its small campus feel and diverse learning environment both in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Pennington was kind enough to share a few things about her professional journey, her involvement and Montclair State University’s membership with NASPA, and her advice for those looking to join the profession. Please enjoy the interview below. 

Describe campus life at Montclair State University in three words

Diverse, energetic and fun!

What is your favorite time on campus and why?

My favorite time is the spring. After the hibernation of winter, it's fun to see students emerge from their cocoons - active on campus and having fun at spring events outside.

Favorite quote or words of inspiration as it relates to the student affairs profession?

I have two: Eleanor Rooselvelt's "Do one thing everyday that scares you." The other one is by Nolen Bushnell: "Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it that makes a difference." Both are about the importance of being brave enough to take action. That's what we need to need in student affairs.  We need to be active about what we do- making bold and tough choices and having the courage of our convictions.

Fill in the blank:  “Here comes Dr. Pennington! She’s a real


Is there a NASPA event that you and/or your staff look forward to attending every year?

We all look forward to attending the annual national and regional conferences and whenever we can to attend topical programs as well. They are invaluable to our ability to stay current and also to learn new and innovative ways to do our work.

You recently received a grant for $10,000,000 to use for any student affairs program or initiative. What is the first thing you would do?

Say Thank You! I then would set aside half of the money for scholarships and programs for students with extreme need and allocate the second half for student programming - thereby feeding both the mind and the soul.

What has been one or two events that Montclair State University’s student affairs staff been involved with this year that everyone is especially proud of?

Our Admissions Office and Student Academic Services area have developed a new program designed to help undeclared students make better and more choices about declaring a major. The Discovery Program outlines certain courses, career discussions, faculty presentations and more, that will help students make informed and knowledgeable decisions.

What makes Montclair State University’s student affairs staff stand out on campus?

We stand out because of our willingess to do whatever we need to do to get the job done. We are viewed by faculty and staff as individuals who they can turn to for help with whatever they need.

Fill in the blank: “For me, NASPA represents

—friendship and knowledge.”

How has being an institutional and individual member of NASPA benefitted you personally and Montclair State University’s campus community?

Being a member of NASPA has been so important to me both on a personal as well as professional level. As many have said before me, NASPA has been my professional home. It has been the place where I have learned so much about our field and how I can best serve my students. It also has provided me the professional friends and colleagues upon whom I can draw for support and guidance when needed. NASPA also has provided incredibly important volunteer and leadership opportunities to me. The ability to get involved in the association on many different levels is what I value most as those experiences have given me the chance to show and develop new skills, enhance my creative talents and provided great opportunities for professional fulfillment.

Why should someone consider a career in student affairs?

Someone should consider a career in Student Affairs because it is a profession that allows you to help shape the future. As I often say, "Every day you have a chance to make a difference in someone's life."

Why should an institution consider a NASPA membership?

Institutions without a NASPA membership are depriving their campuses and most especially their students of the insight that comes from the wisdom of colleagues.  This is especially true when an institution is facing tough fiscal times.  Being able to share information with others and learn from those who have faced similar obstables, helps triggers new ideas, develop current ones and find new ways to put deas into action.  The breath of professional development opportunities, including books, conferences, blogs and interest communities mean that there truly is something in NASPA for everyone.

Why should an individual consider a NASPA membership?

The friendships and commeraderie that come from a NASPA membership are very special.  Many times I have heard colleagues say that unless you do what we do, people don't understand. Well, your NASPA colleagues understand. They get it and what you are experiencing. There is strength in knowing that many others out there "have your back." 

To learn more about an institutional membership with NASPA, visit our site or email