Susan Burton

Honorary Degrees


California State University, Northridge​

Ms. Susan Burton has overcome immense challenges to achieve extraordinary accomplishments in the last two decades as a nationally renowned activist and community organizer. She advocates healing, empowerment and opportunity for formerly incarcerated people and has a distinguished record of achievement in programs and efforts for those on the fringe of our society.

Inspired by her own struggle to rebuild her life following addiction and incarceration, she founded A New Way of Life in 1998, a nonprofit that provides safe housing and support to formerly incarcerated women. A New Way of Life provides free legal services and helps women transition back into society, find work and recover from addiction.

A past Soros Justice Fellow, Women’s Policy Institute Fellow and Community Fellow under the California Wellness Foundation’s Violence Prevention Initiative, Ms. Burton has served on the state’s Little Hoover Commission and the Gender Responsive Strategies Task Force. She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections, with authorization to inspect Los Angeles County correctional facilities and advocate for the health and well-being of people housed there.

Ms. Burton has earned many accolades for her work. In 2010, she was named a CNN Top Ten Hero and received the prestigious Citizen Activist Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a recipient of both the Encore Purpose Prize (2012) and the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2014). Ms. Burton has been recognized as a Starbucks “Upstander.” Her memoir, Becoming Ms. Burton, received a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the category of Biography/Autobiography and the inaugural Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice.

Over the years, Ms. Burton has established a meaningful relationship with California State University, Northridge, including her participation and consultation in student and faculty endeavors, such as the CSUN Revolutionary Scholars, a project that seeks to support formerly incarcerated and other systems-impacted students in higher education.

In recognition of the extremely positive impact of her achievements as an activist and advocate, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Northridge are proud to confer upon Ms. Susan Burton the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.