Published: April 24, 2023
Lydia Darlington

A lifelong love of learning and a desire to pursue people-centered work led Lydia Darlington to a career in higher education, and her mentors helped her pursue her master’s degree in higher education. Darlington is the Senior Executive Aide to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at CU Boulder, and she loves her work as a higher education practitioner. Former Vice Chancellor Akirah Bradley, who she holds deep respect for and considers a mentor, encouraged her to pursue the higher education program in the School of Education.

Darlington is this year’s outstanding graduate for the Higher Education (MAHE) program, where she used her practicum project to pay it forward. Darlington worked to build stronger connections between MAHE and Student Affairs, planning a series of three joint professional development sessions for MAHE students and student affairs staff. She also worked closely with MAHE faculty to design and propose a new graduate certificate program in Student Affairs that will help build enrollment pathways into the program and will make MAHE coursework more available to student affairs practitioners across campus.

“Lydia’s interest and drive for improving student affairs practice can be seen in her MA Capstone project, which explores and critiques prevailing student development theories,” faculty nominators said. “Lydia’s project highlights new scholarship centering race, gender, and other identities, showing how these critical frameworks ask us to expand our theories of student development—and to change our work with students.”

Darlington is as an excellent student and a valued member of the School of Education community who has worked to build and strengthen the MA in Higher Education (MAHE) program.

In her own words

Please tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in a small rural town in central Indiana, the youngest daughter of three. Growing up, my parents instilled in me the principles of love, compassion, and respect for all people and things, as well as a healthy dose of curiosity and tenacity. This type of upbringing helped engrain the value of lifelong learning and a desire to pursue people-centered work. I attended Ozark Christian College, where I attained a BA in Intercultural Studies and met my generous and fun-loving husband, Adam, who has been my greatest encourager. Together, we have two dogs, Frasier and Marcel. Adam and I are excited to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this summer! We moved to Colorado in late 2018, and I joined the Division of Student Affairs at CU Boulder in September of 2019. Since then, I have worked in various capacities to support the Vice Chancellor and executive leadership, and I currently serve as the Interim Senior Executive Aide. I joined the MAHE program thanks to the encouragement of former Vice Chancellor Akirah Bradley, who I respect immensely and consider a professional mentor. I can’t thank her enough for urging me to take the next step in my educational journey and earn this degree!."

What is one of the lessons from your time at CU Boulder that you’ll carry with you into the next chapter?

There have been many, many valuable lessons along the way. One I will carry with me always is to not be afraid to take risks – in your coursework, in your professional endeavors, and in your personal journey. For me, this has meant getting out of my comfort zone, asking lots of questions, and investing time and energy in relationship with other people. It can be scary, but the reward is often tenfold!”

What does graduating from CU Boulder represent for you and/or your community?

 I am very proud of my time at CU Boulder so far! To me, graduating from the MAHE program represents my lasting commitment to the mission of higher education and the full scope of human discovery and development.”

What is your best piece of advice for incoming students?

Take the time to get to know your classmates and colleagues within your program! They will become your friends, trusted confidants, study-buddies, champions, and support system when things get tough!”

What continues to drive your passion for your work after graduation?

I love my work as a Student Affairs practitioner... there is nothing else like the energy and excitement of the college environment! It is a privilege to play even a small part in the life story of so many amazing students and other professionals who go on to make incredible impacts on the local and global community.”

Photo Collage of Lydia DarlingtonPhoto Collage of Lydia Darlington