Laura Elizabeth Sponsler

Clinical Assistant Professor

What I do

Dr. Laura E. Sponsler is a clinical assistant professor in the higher education department at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education.  In this role, I connect my teaching, scholarship, and service to the mission and purpose of the university to be a great private university dedicated to the public good.  

Professional Biography

Dr. Sponsler received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Saint Joseph’s University and a master’s degree in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, Dr. Sponsler served as the founding director for NASPA’s Lead Initiative, a project recognizing a network of nearly 100 postsecondary institutions for their commitment to civic learning and democratic engagement.  Dr. Sponsler represented NASPA and its civic work with local, regional, and national partners.  She also collaborated with NASPA's Professional Development team to incorporate civic learning and democratic engagement into conferences and professional development opportunities for NASPA members.  In addition, she provided research support to the NASPA Research and Policy Institute. Prior to her scholarly work, Dr. Sponsler served as a practitioner in student affairs.  She coordinated the Franklin Community, which is dedicated to developing civic leaders for an increasingly democratic and culturally complex world.  Dr. Sponsler also served as the Assistant Director of Service-Learning in an immersion program along the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico as well as coordinated service and leadership programming at Cabrini College.


  • Ph.D., Higher Education , University of Pennsylvania, 2012
  • M.Ed., Higher Education Management, University of Pennsylvania, 2008
  • BA, Biology, Saint Joseph's University, 2003

Professional Affiliations

  • Association for the Study of Higher Education
  • NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education


My research agenda examines broadly the democratic purposes of higher education and in particular, how institutions provide space for voice, participation and engagement, and civic learning. My agenda focuses on three main areas: teaching and learning with attention to civic learning and democratic engagement; the contributions of student affairs to civic learning and democratic engagement; and the experiences of non-tenure track faculty and their participation in higher education.

Featured Publications


  • Teacher Evaluation for Teaching Effectiveness: The Morgridge College of Education Model
  • Engaging Graduate Students in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning through Faculty-Student Partnerships
  • Teaching Democracy During Turbulent Times: Strategies for Civic Engagement


  • NASPA Emerging Faculty Leadership Academy, NASPA