Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs, Clemson University

Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D. is a learner, educator, facilitator, and author. Proud of her rural hometown of Vidrine, Louisiana, her working-class, Cajun roots, and her first-generation college student to Ph.D. journey, Sonja holds degrees from LSU, Florida State, and NC State. She considers herself a scholar-practitioner of higher education; she served as an administrator for 10 years before shifting to the faculty in 2015. She currently serves as an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Clemson University. Sonja studies social class identity, college access and success for rural and first-generation college students, student and women’s leadership, and career preparation and pathways in higher education and student affairs. Sonja stays engaged in the broader field through ACPA, AFLV, ASHE, the Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA, and several journal editorial boards. She enjoys books, traveling, music, sports, laughing, and spending time with her husband and pup. Learn more about Sonja's work at

Speaker Travels From

North Carolina

Sonja is available for in-person and virtual engagements! Contact us today.

Speaker Topics

Becoming a More [First-gen College] Student-Ready Campus

Learn a five-step process to welcome first-gen. college students to campus and assist them to graduation, including terms, barriers, and supports.

Exploring How Jargon Influences First-gen Experiences

Recognize how higher ed lingo and acronyms can create barriers for first-gen students and families and learn how to recalibrate communication.

Success Stories of First-generation College Students

Experience the power of storytelling by learning Sonja’s first-gen story, hearing the success stories of others, and sharing parts of your own story.

First-gen is Not My Only Identity: Recognizing Intersections

Bust the myth that being first-gen is a monolithic experience by exploring how identity intersections create unique first-gen perspectives.

First-gen Foundation: Preparing Classrooms & Curricula

Prepare academic foundations for first-gen students by analyzing learning environments and curricular content for costs, representation, and jargon.

Just For Y’all: Tailored Sessions for Your Institution

Sonja is happy to work with campuses to create tailored sessions around their specific needs in serving first-generation college students.

Books, News, & Media

Books & Monographs

Scholarly Articles

  • Locke, L., Stier, M., &Ardoin, S. (revise and resubmit). “It was like gliding through”: Early college and college transition experiences of women from underrepresented and marginalized groups.
  • Crandall, R., Ardoin, S., & Shinn, J. (revise and resubmit). Senior student affairs officers’ perspectives on the social justice focus in higher education and student affairs graduate programs. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.
  • Hallmark, T. & Ardoin, S. (2021). Public narratives and postsecondary pursuits: An examination of gender, rurality, and college choice. Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education.
  • Locke, L., Broadhurst, C., & Ardoin, S. (2021). “Leading from the middle”: Exploring stories of women working for change in PK-12 Schools. The Professional Educator.
  • Ardoin, S., Crandall, R., & Shinn, J. (2019). Senior student affairs officers’ perspectives on professional preparation in higher education and student affairs graduate programs. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 56(4), 379-393.
  • *Ardoin, S., Broadhurst, C., Locke, L., & Johnson, J. (2019). Peacemakers and rabble rousers: Women leaders as activists in higher education. Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education, 12(1), 35-53.
  • Ardoin, S. (2017). Priced out: Considerations for increasing low-income students’ ability to engage on campus and increase cultural and social capital. NASPA Knowledge Community Online National Conference Publication, 51-52. Retrieved from

Public Scholarship and Media Articles

  • Wood, S. (2021, April 2). First-generation institute highlights social class and institutional responsibilities [Sonja Ardoin keynote highlighted]. Diverse Issues.. Retrieved from here.
  • Ardoin, S. (2021, March). Responding to students’ changing needs. NASPA Leadership Exchange, 19(1), 37.. Retrieved from here.
  • Ardoin, S. (2021, January 4). Rethinking recruitment for equity, not ease. AFLV Connections.. Retrieved from here.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education. (2020, December 10). Race, class, & campus climate webinar [Sonja Ardoin as panelist]. Retrieved from here.
  • Berg, A. (2020, July 17). For first-generation students, a disappearing ‘college experience’ could have grave consequences [Sonja Ardoin quoted]. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from here.
  • McNamee, T., Willis, J., Ganss, K. M., Ardoin, S., & Sansone, V. (2020, May 4). Don’t forget about rural higher education students: Addressing digital inequities during COVID-19. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved from here.
  • Jarvis, W. (2019, July 31). ‘Why do we have so many freaking acronyms?!’ Some colleges target jargon in the name of student success [Sonja Ardoin quoted]. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from here.
  • Nadworny, E. & Marcus, J. (2018, December 12). 'Going to office hours is terrifying' and other tales of rural students in college [Sonja Ardoin quoted]. NPR. Retrieved from here.
  • Marcus, J. (2018, December 12). Some colleges extend scholarships and other help to rural high school grads [Sonja Ardoin quoted]. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from here.
  • Monaghan, P. (2018, April 22). The lonely country road to college. [The Chronicle Bookshelf, with Sonja Ardoin]. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from here.
  • Zamudio-Suaréz, F. (2016, December 11). I fit in neither place [The Chronicle Interview, with Sonja Ardoin]. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from here.

Click here to view a full list of Sonja Ardoin's published work.

More About The Speaker

View Sonja Ardoin's website here.

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