26 April 2024 • Alums A New Appreciation By Colin Spencer '19

One of the first graduating members of HWS' new Master of Higher Education Leadership program, Jocelyn McKenzie ’18 reflects on returning to campus and how the program has prepared her to be a higher-ed leader. 

When she graduated from HWS six years ago, Jocelyn McKenzie ’18, MHEL ’24 followed her passion for education to New York City, where she taught kindergarteners and first-graders at Success Academy. She moved to California when the COVID-19 pandemic began and worked as a middle school teacher. It was then, as she discovered how much she liked working with older students, that McKenzie learned about HWS' new Master of Higher Education Leadership (MHEL) program.

“Learning about the program, I saw I could work on a college campus, stay on the administration side and still directly work with students and in mentorship roles,” says McKenzie. 

Now, as part of the first cohort of students in the program graduating, she’s ready to begin her career in the administrative side of college. 

“I feel ready to jump into a role and take it on,” she says. “Everything I’ve learned here in my classes and my role, and through the different staff members I’ve met who’ve mentored me along the way, I feel very prepared and very supported.”

Through her MHEL classes, McKenzie has explored leadership theory, the history of disability, the history of higher education and leadership, and innovation. She has also conducted independent research on how higher education is portrayed in the media, qualitative research on the experiences of student belonging on campus and served as a graduate resident director, working on operational aspects of residential life and helping Community Assistants develop their leadership skills. 

A summer internship working with the HWS Office of Admissions has also given her broader exposure to the world of higher education, including challenges like national trends in college and university enrollment. “As an administrator, you ask, ‘What can we do to impact this?’” says McKenzie.

As one of the first students to complete the new program, McKenzie has enjoyed helping shape it for future cohorts. 

She hopes to work in a role where she is directly mentoring students and can advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. “All of Jocelyn’s academic work, hands-on research, and intentional experiential opportunities will set her apart from other candidates, in my opinion,” shares Vice President for Campus Life and Director of the MHEL Program Becca Barile.

“Going through this program, I have a new appreciation for HWS,” says McKenzie. “I feel prepared to enter another college and be an administrator.” 

As an undergrad at HWS, McKenzie majored in Africana Studies and minored in Spanish and Hispanic Studies. She studied abroad in Costa Rica and was a member of Sankofa, the Colleges’ Black student union.