Professional News

Nicki Jenkins and Nancy Stephens Honored by AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education

Left: Nicki Jenkins. Right: Nancy Stephens.
Nicki Jenkins and Nancy Stephens

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 3, 2022) — Nicki Jenkins, senior program specialist for the University of Kentucky's Parent and Family Association, and Nancy Stephens, head of New Student and Family Programs, have recently been honored by AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education. 

“The University of Kentucky has been among the country's leading institutions in the field of family relations and communications for many years,” said Lindsay O. McKinney, executive director of AHEPPP. “Nancy’s work at UK has been extremely influential and a gold-standard for other member institutions, her service to AHEPPP has truly been exemplary. AHEPPP is also thrilled to welcome Nicki to the board of directors this year.”

As a member of the board of directors, Jenkins will serve on a number of committees that will support the association and its members, and will work with AHEPPP’s Equity, Belonging and Inclusion (EBI) Council to establish more equity, belonging and inclusion in the association and in the field of parent and family engagement. 

“I am honored to have been selected as an AHEPPP Board of Directors member and am excited to work with such amazing colleagues from around the country to support professionals who are doing the great work of supporting students through family engagement,” Jenkins said. “AHEPPP has been an important part of my professional journey and I look forward to being able to give back to a community that has given me so much.”

Jenkins’s first major project as a board member will be to create a member publication that will outline research and best practices in creating Parent Boards (advisory, volunteer development). AHEPPP members will hopefully have access to the publication in the spring semester.

Stephens was awarded the Outstanding Senior-Level Professional award by AHEPPP. This award recognizes a professional who has demonstrated service to AHEPPP, and/or to the parent and family programming profession. 

Each year, AHEPPP recognizes professionals from across the U.S. and Canada for their research, top-notch communication, activities and programs and important initiatives that foster student success through family engagement. In 2021, award categories included:

  • Best Institutional Initiative (small, mid-sized, and large college)
  • Excellence in Publication (print and digital)
  • Powerful Partnership
  • Outstanding Contribution to Research and/or Literature
  • Outstanding Graduate or Undergraduate Student
  • Outstanding New Professional (zero-four years of experience)
  • Outstanding Mid-Level Professional (four-eight years of experience)
  • Outstanding Senior-Level Professional  (nine or more years of experience)

The Outstanding Senior-Level Professional is selected based on their ability to demonstrate commitment to the field of parent and family engagement through two or more of the following criteria:

  • innovative contributions to the individual’s institution;
  • active involvement in AHEPPP and/or other student affairs professional organizations;
  • indication of significant promise for future leadership roles in the student affairs profession; and/or
  • research/assessment initiatives or publications.

“AHEPPP has been such a supportive professional home for me over the years, so I am incredibly honored to be recognized with the Outstanding Senior-Level Professional award,” Stephens said. “I was touched by the lovely nominations from my colleagues at UK and beyond as well as the kind messages I got after the award was announced. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with our Wildcat parents and families and partner with them to support our amazing students.”

Both Jenkins and Stephens play an integral role in the student experience at the university. Their commitment to providing transitional support is not only seen in the accolades they receive but also in the success of the programs they run. 

"A key component of promoting the success of our students is engaging their families as part of their journey at UK,” said Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner. “We are proud of the leadership and hard work that Nancy and Nicki put into supporting our families and propelling our students forward." 

To learn more about the Parent and Family Association and New Student and Family Programs, visit the Office for Student Success website

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.