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Tori Svoboda Pronounce my name

Pronouns: She, her, hers
Associate Professor
Student Affairs Administration
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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Tori Svoboda Pronounce my name Pronouns: She, her, hers

Associate Professor

Student Affairs Administration

Specialty area(s)

intersections of gender, racial/ethnic, and social class identities; orientation, transition and retention programs; program assessment; budget management; supervision; social justice education

Brief biography

I was born in St. Paul MN and raised on a small hobby farm in western WI. I've always loved learning and was the first in my immediate family to graduate from college. I attended UW-River Falls, St. Cloud State, and UW-Madison as an undergraduate, and started graduate school  thinking I would be a guidance counselor. There, a former work-study supervisor of mine encouraged me to check out student affairs as a career option. Over 30 years later, I'd say he gave pretty great advice!

In 2013, I transitioned from full-time administrator to full-time faculty, and I couldn't be happier. I currently live in Minneapolis MN. 

Current courses at UWL

Summer 2024:

SAA 702 - Student Development Theory (co-teaching with Dr. Adele Lozano)

SAA 890 - College Teaching

SAA 899 - Independent Study (on critical whiteness studies)

SAA 990/995 - Dissertation research


Ed.D. - Leadership, 2012
University of St. Thomas
Dissertation: Constructing Class: Exploring the experiences of White women student affairs educators from working class backgrounds [Link]

M.S. - Counseling Psychology, 1995
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Thesis: Identity matching in counseling relationships

B.A. - Women's Studies, African American Studies, + Foreign Languages, 1992
University of Wisconsin - Madison


Teaching history

Fall 2013 marked my first term teaching at UW-La Crosse. I taught as an adjunct faculty member in the Leadership in Student Affairs master's degree program at the University of St. Thomas (MN) for seven years prior to joining the SAA program. When I was at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, I was a faculty associate teaching behavioral interviewing and a graduate teaching assistant in women's studies. Courses I have taught at UWL include the following undergraduate, master's, and doctoral courses:

Undergraduate courses

UWL 100 - First Year Seminar

Master's program courses

SAA 700 - Foundations of Ethical and Professional Practice in Student Affairs 

SAA 701 - Technology in Student Affairs

SAA 702 - Student Development Theories

SAA 704 - Leadership & Organizational Theories

SAA 706 - Advising & Supporting

SAA 708 - Social Justice in Higher Education

SAA 710 - Administration in Higher Education

SAA 720 (topics) - Academic Advising 

SAA 720 (topics) - (Dis)Ability in Higher Ed (co-taught with Robin Hart Ruthenbeck in 2016; with Justin Hiniker in 2018)

SAA 720 (topics) - First Generation Students (co-taught with Amanda Goodenough in 2017)

SAA 720 (topics) - Gender Equity (co-taught with Nizam Arain in 2015)

SAA 720 (topics) - Social Class

SAA 720 (topics) - Student Retention

SAA 720 (topics) - U.K. Study Tour

SAA 720 (topics) - Violence Prevention (co-taught with Barbara Stewart in 2017)

SAA 720 (topics) - White Privilege 

SAA 745 - Finance & Governance

SAA 761 - Applied Research / Assessment

SAA 775 - Practicum

SAA 780 - Applied Research Project / SAA Capstone Research

SAA 781 - Student Affairs Internship

SAA 790 - Capstone

SAA 795 - Independent Study (on topics ranging from Ubuntu/Buddhism in Higher Ed, to College Student Retention, to HR/Finance)

Doctoral program courses:

SAA 820 - Critical Analysis of Systemic Inequities in Education

SAA 830 - Qualitative Research Methods

SAA 840 - Supervision & HR Management

SAA 890 (formerly 898) - Special topics: College Teaching

SAA 899 - Independent Studies (on gendered organizations and leadership, assessing online student learning, autoethnography, critical whiteness studies)

SAA 930 - Dissertation Preparation Seminar

SAA 931 - Doctoral Writers' Retreat

SAA 990/995 - Dissertation Research

Professional history

2014-present: SAA Professor (starting July 1, 2024) / Associate Professor (2019-2023) / Assistant Professor (2014-2018) / Lecturer (2013-2014) at UW-La Crosse. 

Tenured and promoted from assistant to associate professor effective July 1, 2019; promoted to full professor effective July 1, 2024.

Recipient of 2024 Eagle Excellence in Teaching Award and 2018 College of Liberal Studies Excellence in Teaching Award.

Elected to serve as department chair for three-year terms in 2020 and again in 2023. Served as MSEd Graduate Program Director from 2017-2023.

2002-2013: Associate Dean of Students, Diversity & Inclusion at the University of St. Thomas (MN) (responsible for orientation, student diversity, commuter and adult student services, family weekend, sexual violence investigations, budgeting, assessment)

2007-2014: Adjunct Faculty, Leadership Policy & Administration, University of St. Thomas (taught Introduction to Student Affairs seven consecutive years, along with internship classes and a finance course)

1998-2002: Interim Director/Assistant Director, Campus Information, Assistance & Orientation, University of Wisconsin - Madison

1995-1998: Academic and Career Advisor, School of Education, University of WI - Madison

1995: Transfer Admissions Counselor and Residency Counselor (LTE)

1992-1995: Several positions as a graduate assistant (teaching assistant in Women's Studies, Campus Women's Center Director, student organization office intern, wellness peer educator and HIV test counselor, advisor to outdoor programs in Hoofers, advisor to Greater University Tutoring Service)

Research and publishing

As a full-time administrator for over 20 years, my contributions were primarily through presenting and leading professional associations rather than publishing. Still, since becoming an assistant professor in 2014, I have contributed the following to our field.

Svoboda, T., & Lozano, A. (2021). Critical social class and leadership practices. New Directions of Student Leadership, 2021(169), 23-31. [Link in UWL library]

Svoboda, V. (2019).  “I could always go back to being a bartender”: Musings of an ambivalent academic.  In S. Ardoin & b. martinez (Eds.), Straddling class in the academy.  Stylus.  

Svoboda, V. (2018). Considering class in academic and career advising.  NASPA Knowledge Community Publication, pp. 58-59. [Link]

Svoboda, V. (2016). Grounding versus lifting: Mobility of student affairs educators from working-class backgrounds. NASPA Knowledge Community Publication, pp. 56-58. [Link]

Svoboda, V., Boyle, K. M., & Ponasik, N. (2016).  Faculty perceptions of graduate online student affairs education: Skeptics and fans.  Distance Teaching & Learning Conference Proceedings, pp. 39-44.  [Link]

Svoboda, V., & Vianden, J. (2015). Challenging straight White college men (STR8WCM) to develop positive social justice advocacy. ACPA Developments, 12(4). [Link]

Vianden, J., Berry, M., & Svoboda, T. (2019). Challenging heterosexual White college men to engage in campus diversity efforts: An orientation imperative. Journal of College Orientation, Transition, and Retention 26(1), 4-16.

I led two additional research projects. The first, studying online graduate education in student affairs, aims to explore faculty perceptions about whether this delivery system could enhance the diversity of our profession. This project was awarded a faculty research grant from ACPA in 2015. We presented preliminary results at ACPA in 2016 and had our first article published in summer 2016.

The second, studying academic early alert systems for undergraduate students of color, is an attempt to learn student experiences with such systems and the extent to which they may activate stereotype threat. This project was awarded a catalyst research grant from NODA in 2015. I presented results at NODAC in 2015 and 2016.

McNair Scholars gives me the chance to work with exceptional undergraduate students on their research. In 2015, Ebony Phillips and I were able to present our work on multiracial students with white passing privilege at the NASPA Multicultural Institute and in 2016, I worked with Cristian Noriega-Sagastume on a project related to polarity management and the social justice educator practice of calling in/out.

With colleague Dr. Buffy Smith, Sociology, University of St. Thomas, I co-edit the Social Class in Education series from Lexington.  Books we have published thus far include: 

Ardoin, S. (2017). College aspirations and access in working class rural communities:  The mixed signals, challenges, and new language first generation students encounter. [Link]

Hurst, A. (2019). Amplified advantage: Going to a “good” college in an era of inequality. [Link]

Roberson Lathe, T. (2017). The working class student in higher education:  Addressing a class-based understanding. [Link]

Additional professional affiliations include:

SJTI - Social Justice Training Institute - participant in 2003, renewal in 2006, intern in 2012

ACPA - College Student Educators International - former Board member of the Commission for Commuter Students and Adult Learners and of the Minnesota College Personnel Association. Presenter and facilitator at ACPA's Institute for Social Justice in 2010. Member since 1995.

NACADA - National Academic Advising Association - pre-conference workshop presenter in 2012.

ASHE - Association for the Study of Higher Education - early career faculty teaching workshop participant in 2010.

NODA - Association for Orientation, Transition, & Retention in Higher Education - as member of research committee, helped craft organization's first research agenda. NODA was my professional home for many years, as I served as the MN State Coordinator for four years, hosted a regional conference when I was at UW-Madison, and presented at both the national and regional conferences over 20 times.

I have also presented at the annual NAFSA and ACHA conventions, TRIO Tri-State conferences, and MN and WI career conferences.



Heather Walder, Archaeology & Anthropology; Kristin Koepke, CATL; Astrid Lorena Ochoa Campo, Global Cultures & Languages; Melissa Weege, Health Professions; Rachel Funk-Johnson, Management; Jeff Baggett, Mathematics & Statistics; Xinhui Li, Microbiology; Tesia Marshik, Psychology; and Tori Svoboda, Student Affairs Administration; served as UWL representatives at the Universities of Wisconsin event, Faculty College. Faculty College was held May 28-31 in Elkhart Lake, WI. The theme was "Rethinking/Redesigning Student Assignments" and Ashley Finley of AAC&U was the guest presenter.

Submitted on: June 4


Mai Lo Lee, Director of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs at UW-Green Bay, current first year doctoral student in Student Affairs Administration & Leadership (SAAL) at UW-La Crosse, and 2007 alumni of UWL master’s program in student affairs, was recently named one of eight “Women of Influence in the New North” (18-county region of Northeast Wisconsin). Recipients will be featured in a special publication and recognized at an awards ceremony Aug. 1, 2023, in Green Bay. More information is available online.

Submitted on: April 25, 2023


Tori Svoboda, Student Affairs Administration, presented "You won't break my soul: Cultivating critical hope in the midst of difficult times" at TRIO Tri-State Conference on Thursday, April 13 in Des Moines, IA. The Educational Opportunity Association (EOA) Tri-State Conference theme was "Honoring the past, while developing advocates for the future." Dr. Svoboda was an invited plenary speaker, asked to discuss broadening access to and success in higher education for first-generation college students, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities.

Submitted on: April 13, 2023