Hispanic Heritage Month: “La Historia De Mi Gente”

This was crossposted by the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Hispanic Heritage Month: "La Historia De Mi Gente"

By: Amanda Zepeda

My first teachers were my parents. Both grew up in immigrant households in the vibrant city of Los Angeles. They were Chicano latch-key-kids of the 1970s. My father began working at a young age, supplementing the family’s income with a paper route before school and gardening work with my grandfather on the weekend. My mother loved reading and writing. She was always naturally good with numbers and words, which made her stand out in her classes. Both were quick-witted and capable, and yet neither of them were particularly pushed by their parents academically. As a defiant reaction to this, my parents made it a point to repeat phrases such as “Appreciate what you have”, “Pay attention in school”, and “You’re going to college!”. They made it their mission to ‘break the cycle’ and give us what they had not been given.

My dad eventually got a job right out of high school, and my mom made her way to a four-year university, encouraged to do so by her teachers. She dropped out before graduating, but eventually went back almost twenty years later to cross that stage. The experiences that they had helped to shape who they became and thus shaped how they decided to raise my siblings and me. They taught us the importance of family, to show compassion, to persevere, and most importantly, the value of education.

I believe education is the most valuable source of freedom a person can have. Throughout history, people have been imprisoned, punished, and castigated over knowledge. Thousands have fought to obtain it and others have fought to keep people from having it. Knowledge is our way to success; knowledge of our culture, knowledge of our people, and knowledge of our history.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I was surrounded by my Latino community. However, I did not always see myself or my community represented in school. We learned about Columbus, the California Missions, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and many other topics and yet the accomplishments of my communities were mysteriously missing from our textbooks and discussions. While those people and events are important to understand the complexity of United States history, they do not tell the complete story.

The first time I had a Latina teacher was the first time I had a teacher that spoke like me, looked like me, and had stories like mine. I did not have this experience until I was in community college. Before this, I had felt disconnected from my history, my family’s story, and myself for so long. I didn’t even realize anything was wrong. Sitting in my first Ethnic Studies class was the first time I learned about Native resistance against Europeans throughout North America, or about empowered Chicanas in the 1960s demanding social change, or about the intertwined history between the United States and Latin America. It was my history; my family’s story being told. A story of immigration, loss, trauma, love, strength, and perseverance. La historia de mi gente. I realized that this is what I wanted for the next generation. I didn’t want them to wait twenty years to hear their stories. I wanted them to see themselves reflected, acknowledged, and valued in their K-12 classes. So, I decided to continue what my parents had begun, to attempt to “break the cycle” of lack of education for as many kids as I could. I decided to become a teacher.

Celebrating Latino Heritage month to me means commemorating and acknowledging those that came before us. It means honoring our ancestors and sharing their powerful stories in and outside the classroom. Stories of community, of resistance, of love, of passion, of struggle and of achievement. Stories that we can learn from, that will bring us together, and make us stronger.

Amanda Zepeda is a second generation Chicana from the San Fernando Valley. She was a community college transfer student that graduated from San Francisco State University with a double major in History and Latina/o Studies and a minor is Race and Resistance. This is her second year as a high school educator teaching both Ethnic Studies and United States History and has been working within the education field for the past eight years.

A Letter to America’s Teachers

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

I never could predict what might happen in Mr. O’Neil’s art classes; I just knew I couldn’t wait for the next assignment.  Back then I didn’t realize all the ways this dynamic educator, a rare man of color leading our diverse classroom of second graders, was serving as a pioneer and role model for me and my peers in John Barry Elementary School.  But I’ll never forget how his teaching made me feel.  As a second grader, I remember looking up — watching him encourage, challenge and guide us – and thinking: “I want to be like him.”

In the years since embracing that calling and starting my career as a classroom teacher, I’ve kept that sense of purpose and wonder.  And my goal in all the administrative roles I’ve held is to facilitate great teaching and learning: to support and expand the transformative impact that skilled, caring classroom teachers have for students, schools, and communities.

Every day America’s teachers change lives, and every day those lives change the world.

Now, this truth can seem to recede as you rush to keep up with the day’s intense pace, and your students’ needs and opportunities. Yet, from the first bell on the first day of the school year, you build a relationship with each of them. You learn their strengths and struggles, laugh with them, cry with them, worry over them, cheer for them – and at the end of the school year, help them transition to their next grade level adventure. You know all those experiences – both the academic and life lessons – have changed both you and them for the better.  You empower them to grow in skill and character — expand their understanding of the world and how to shape it — explore their interests and decide where to make their mark.

Teaching is not a job anyone just falls into. It is mastery of a craft: in fact, the craft that enables all the others. In my experience, great teachers are also quintessential lifelong learners. You use your command of learning science, your insights into your students’ unique needs and aptitudes, as well as the lessons of the past, the realities of the present and the inspiration, innovation and ingenuity of the future to help each new generation become leaders for today and tomorrow. Throughout the year you support your fellow educators, add to your tools through professional development, provide feedback on assignments, sponsor sports, service learning, clubs and other extracurricular activities, collaborate with parents –in addition to everything you pour into your students during class.

Even in this unprecedented year, you rallied, finding new ways to engage with students. In the face of tragedy, you learned new technologies and built virtual classroom communities, all while caring for yourselves and your own families.  As we heal, recover, and rebuild, this pandemic presents a chance to forge opportunity from crisis and reimagine education on every level. We will use this time to address inequities in our education system, and your contributions will be invaluable.  The work won’t be easy, but the impact of your success will be profound, for students and communities. I urge state, local, and elected officials to make sure classroom teachers have a voice in your plans and efforts to reimagine education; second to parents, they know our students best.

I look forward to learning and listening from you in the days ahead.  And, from all of us at the Department of Education: Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. There’s a reason teacher like Mr. O’Neil – and all of you – are memorable.  There’s a reason student in America’s classrooms watch you share your curiosity, energy and passion for ideas and think, “I want to be like them.”

You are embodiments of possibility, champions of your students’ potential and stewards of their success.

Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education.

Honoring Laura Coria


Laura Coria

4th Grade Teacher

Ogden, UT

Laura Coria teaches 4th Grade at James Madison Elementary in Ogden, Utah. She obtained her baccalaureate in elementary education from Weber State University  in 1993.  Since then, she has completed 6 specialties, or endorsements:  Reading Level I; Advance Reading Level II; Spanish (minor); Mathematics; English as a Second Language; and STEM. She is currently seeking certifications in Google Apps for Education.  Ms. Coria has spent her entire career working in Title 1 schools in low socioeconomic neighborhoods.  She has taught grades 1st – 5th, ESL adult education as well as elementary age children.  She has been a grade level team leader, steering committee lead, Hispanic Culture Director for her school.  In 2015, Ms. Coria received the “Higher Achievement Award” from Ogden School District, for demonstrating a “Growth Mindset” leading to excellence in achievement.

Why do you teach?

I teach because I love learning and it’s a privilege to work with children.

What do you love about teaching?

What I love most about teaching is making an impact in a child’s life and knowing I am a key tool in creating a future for children of poverty.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

I still remember my 6th grade teacher and the impact she made in my life. I am a native of Mexico (now a US citizen), living in poverty myself, I remember how my teacher would tell me that I would be able to accomplish anything I wanted. She told me I had potential and I was a hard worker.

Honoring Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters

Rowena Ortiz- Walters

Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters

Dean, School of Business and Economics

State University of New York, Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh, NY

Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters joined SUNY Plattsburgh in July 2015, becoming only the 9th Hispanic-American Dean of a School of Business. Formerly, she was the department chair and professor of management at Quinnipiac University where she spent 11 years moving up the academic ranks including holding the roles of co-founder and co-director of the Center for Women and Business.

Rowena is also an active scholar and, public speaker in higher education. Through her scholarship and speaking engagements, she contributes to the national conversation on the status of women’s careers. Sample outlets where her research appears includes Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Women’s Entrepreneurship and Education, Business Journal of Hispanic Research and Journal of College Teaching and Learning. Speaking engagements include: Catalyst®, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, and Chambers of Commerce. She has also served on the advisory board for the Office of Diversity and Community Partnership at the Harvard Medical School.

Rowena was recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Latinos in Connecticut by Latinos United for Professional Advancement (LUPA) Organization and New Haven Business Time’s 40 under 40. She has also received best teaching awards from the University of Connecticut. Rowena earned an MBA from the University of New Haven and her doctorate from the University of Connecticut.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

I never thought about business or teaching in the beginning but I have always had an interest in learning. After working a few years as a chemist, my undergraduate background is in chemistry, I noticed that a lot of young chemists were going out and getting an MBA. Studying for my MBA gave me exposure to the field of organizational behavior. It looks at how people interact, and how that impacts group dynamics, employee morale, and the performance of an organization. It wasn’t that I didn’t like chemistry, it was more that I fell in love with business.

Beyond that, my personal mission is to economically empower women. Being able to have the money behind you allows you so many opportunities to do the things you want to do without having to rely on anyone else. Educational empowerment is important as well. So becoming a professor, of business in particular, helps me empower my students and be an active advocate on women’s behalf.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

I have had access to mentors, both male and female, which have helped me stay the course to completing my doctorate as well as becoming an excellent teacher. Moreover, the PhD Project has been an invaluable resource for me personally for emotional support, networking and as a platform for promoting diversity in the academy.

What do you love about teaching?

I have moved on from teaching now that I am a dean, however I am fully student-centered and still relish those moments when I can connect with students through mentoring. Particularly at my institution where almost 50% of the population are 1st generation students, I love just being there for them as others have been for me. Our students have so much potential and all they need from us, as teachers and administrators, is to be role models.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

I’ve been very fortunate to have supportive teachers and mentors throughout my career but a key person in my life has been George Moran, my high school guidance counselor. I was accepted on full scholarship to an IV League. Knowing I would not go, he offered to pay for all 4 years of my book expenses. He invested in me and believed in me like no one else. For his influence in my life, I am forever grateful.


Honoring Dr. Cinthia B. Satornino


Dr. Cinthia B. Satornino

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Northeastern University

Boston, MA

Dr. Cinthia B. Satornino is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Northeastern University. She earned her PhD at Florida State University and her MBA from the University of Florida. Cinthia has taught the principles of Marketing to undergraduates since 2011, and has been nominated for the FSU College of Business teaching award. As a professor, she brings her corporate and institutional experience into the classroom, and provides students with a real-world view of the marketing field. Her teaching style incorporates current events, interactive activities and games to help students engage with and connect with the concepts. Cinthia also has an active research pipeline, and has coauthored several publications, including a recent publication in the Journal of Marketing that earned the 2016 Excellence in Research Award from the American Marketing Association’s SalesSIG and the 2016 Ronald Copeland Best Paper award. Her research focus is on examining how social systems and social structures impact customer and firm outcomes. She was a recipient of the AMA and Sheth Foundations’ New Faculty Research Grant for 2015 and was recently recognized as a 2016 Emerging Scholar by Diverse Magazine. She is currently the co-Chair of the Committee for Hispanic Excellence in business, a PhD Project/White House initiative. Her industry experience includes more than a decade as a strategic planning and CRM professional. Cinthia is a founding partner of Cordoba-Parsons, a consulting company.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

While there are many motivating factors for becoming a professor, a few stand out. One was the desire to mentor students before they became working professionals. I served as a mentor to young professionals throughout my career, and I really enjoyed that aspect of my job. I hired a lot of new graduates in the hiring process, and I encountered a lot of new graduates that weren’t as well prepared as they should be for their entry into the workplace. I wanted to help. I had this notion that the most efficient way to reach as many future leaders as possible was to head back to college as a professor. But in reality, these thought may have never fully manifested into a PhD if it had not been for the PhD Project crossing my path. The PhD Project instilled in me a sense of mission. I felt inspired to convert the dream into a reality, and felt that the journey was a part of a much bigger movement, a responsibility to pay it forward, to serve as a role model and to actively seek to mentor students. The PhD Project gave a direction to my ambition. If it wasn’t for their intervention, I might not have ever transitioned from my professional life into an academic one.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

The PhD Project supports underrepresented minority doctoral students by providing them with access to a network of like-minded individuals who are also navigating the academic journey. I was able to connect to incredible mentors across the academy. It is this social support, preparation, and education we receive as members of the Project’s Doctoral Student Associations that allowed me to successfully navigate the challenge of earning a PhD, and becoming an effective teacher. I also had champions in my doctoral program at Florida State University, like the chair of my dissertation committee, Dr. Mike Brady, who is an award-winning teacher. He is dedicated to mentoring underrepresented minority doctoral students, and strongly emphasizes the importance of being an effective teacher. He set the bar for what it means to be effective, engaging, and dedicated in the classroom.

What do you love about teaching?

There’s that moment, when a student sits in your classroom, or your office, and you’re talking about their future, or their aspirations, or their challenges, when their face lights up with new knowledge, or a path that has opened up for them, or a new perspective they’ve uncovered. That is the greatest moment for me. Being a teacher, you have the unique opportunity to help someone find their true path. How lucky we are to be a part of that experience!

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

Dr. Henry Tosi was a professor at the University of Florida, where I earned my MBA. He broke every erroneous preconception I had about academics and the world of academia. I never would have imagined that I would fit into the academic world, but he showed me that you could be different and still be successful. He showed me that it was an exciting, fun, and rewarding path. He was the first to plant the idea in my head that maybe it was a path I could follow.

Honoring Dr. Anne-Marie Nuñez


Dr. Anne-Marie Nuñez

Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs

The Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

For ten years, Anne-Marie Nuñez has served as a faculty member in higher education and student affairs, while conducting award-winning research on advancing equity in postsecondary education. During her nine years at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), a large Hispanic-Serving Institution, she helped launch a new program to educate master’s and doctoral students in higher education administration, the first of its kind in the city. As part of this effort, she developed and taught new courses in: (1) college access, identity, and development; (2) higher education organizations and systems; and (3) research and evaluation design. In her tenth year, she moved to serve as an associate professor of higher education in The Ohio State University Department of Educational Studies. As a professor, she has guided several students to present at conferences and to publish independent or co-authored pieces about topics including Latino student success, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and educational equity. One student whose dissertation she supervised about faculty in a Hispanic-Serving community college won a 2016 Dissertation of the Year award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges. In her work with several national and international professional associations, Dr. Nuñez has developed and led national mentoring programs that have reached over 150 graduate students and faculty of color who study and work in higher education.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

When I began my higher education career, I did not know I wanted to become a professor, as I was the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. and was unfamiliar with doctoral and professorial career pathways. As I developed my teaching and research, I felt that I could make a difference by broadening the knowledge base about the higher education experiences and outcomes of historically underserved groups like Latinos, and in turn influence institutional policies and practices to respond better to the educational needs of these groups. I became particularly interested in focusing on the educational success of Latinos because of how they have come to shape the demographic transformation of the U.S. Also, I came to realize that I enjoyed empowering students to fulfill their potential. Because I began my career in a large public Hispanic-Serving Institution (The University of Texas at San Antonio), I had many opportunities to teach Latino students about higher education research, policy, and practice. It was rewarding to serve as a role model for these students and help them expand their life possibilities. Some students said that I was the first Latina professor they had ever had, which inspired them to believe that they could take on a similar role. These experiences kept me motivated in my teaching and informed my research about Latinos and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Overall, I became a professor because I wanted to strengthen educational opportunities for historically underserved students, families, and communities. I am grateful that this career has given me a chance to do so.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

My relationships and networks have been incredibly supportive to me in my teaching. When I started at UTSA, I was fortunate to be part of a College of Education and Human Development that had a relatively high number of Latina professors. This situation was unusual, considering that 4% of all tenured or tenure-track professors in the U.S. are Latina. These professors invited me to participate in a support group for Latina faculty centered around research, teaching, and service to advance Latino educational attainment. They worked in areas of education ranging from elementary education, to higher education, to principal preparation. Often, the professorial career can be competitive, but we chose to guide one another through the tenure and promotion process, conducted research together, and offered one another advice about pedagogical approaches. In some cases, we even published about effective strategies for teaching Latino students, sharing our knowledge with a broader set of scholars. Together, we offered professional development to local educators about everything from teacher preparation, to college counseling, to being effective school leaders in settings with bilingual and Latino students. In addition, national programs such as those through the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) have helped me to develop effective, comprehensive, and updated course curricula in my field. Overall, I have been fortunate to have role models at all levels who have been willing to share strategies for effective teaching with me. My mentors, peers, and students have taught me so much about how to teach others.

What do you love about teaching?

I love creating conditions in which students can meet or exceed their own expectations for what is possible in their lives. This can mean inspiring students to change their career field to higher education, or it can mean encouraging students to pursue higher education fields with which they had been unfamiliar. I have seen students who thought they were bad at math become interested in statistics. Other students have developed new skills in evaluating higher education programs. Still other students have, to their own surprise, come to enjoy research, and gone on to shape knowledge and practice about higher education. Several students have mentioned that it was my passion for material that they thought would be boring, or the fact that I made them think about the material in new ways, that augmented their interest in different dimensions of higher education. It is also rewarding to teach students about my policy work, including that for The White House Commission Educational Excellence for Hispanics, to illustrate how research can make an impact beyond the university, in the policy arena. Nationally, as well as at my own institutions, I have encouraged many scholars to believe in themselves and to actualize their own potential for making significant contributions to higher education and the broader community.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

Although I have had many great teachers, the person who most inspired me to focus on broadening postsecondary educational opportunities was actually not my own teacher, nor was he a professor or a K-12 teacher. His name was Sam Sanchez, and my brother served as a tutor in his program. Sam was a computer scientist who had been the first in his family to go to college, and came from a background where he had not been expected to pursue college. Although he had become successful in his own profession, he became concerned about the lack of Latinos going into math and science. So he independently started a program for Latino elementary and secondary school students called Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement, which provided educational tutoring outside of normal class hours. Despite having a separate full-time profession, and despite not having formal training in education or teaching, Sam still chose to support the next generation of Latino students, on his own limited time and with limited funds. What Sam lacked in time and funds, he made up for in ganas: he saw a problem and, through sheer desire and effort, found his unique way to become part of the solution. Sam showed me that simply having ganas can be the seed to develop an educational initiative to serve the community. Ever since, I have felt that, if Sam could create distinctive ways to serve Latino students, then I could also find a way to contribute to advancing postsecondary educational opportunities.


Honoring Dr. Rebeca Perren


Dr. Rebeca Perren

Assistant Professor of Marketing

California State University, San Marcos

San Marcos, CA

Dr. Rebeca Perren is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at California State University San Marcos. Originally from Panama, she came to the US to pursue her dreams. Dr. Perren is not a traditional professor – before she took the plunge to pursue a Ph.D. she spent ten years jumping out of airplanes as a professional skydiver. Now, she is a driven educator who works relentlessly to develop life-long love of learning in her students.

Her professional experiences are very diverse, spanning from managing marketing activities for several firms in the skydiving industry to providing service and expert advice to financial advisors in the brokerage industry. She earned her doctoral degree in Business Administration, Marketing Track from the University of Central Florida, her MBA from Stetson University and her undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida.

Dr. Perren is the recipient of multiple fellowships and awards during her doctoral studies, including the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and the AMA Foundation Valuing Diversity Scholarship. She was also awarded the Dean’s Presentation Award for outstanding accomplishments and exemplary contribution to the graduate fellowship community at UCF. Currently, she co-chairs the PhD Project Committee for Hispanic Excellence, an initiative focused on enhancing higher education completion rates for Hispanic students nationwide. The program leverages the PhD Project’s network of 300+ Hispanic-American business professors to serve as mentors with purpose of facilitating the student’s successful completion of their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

It is my calling – I am deeply passionate about learning – I wanted to pursue a career path in which I could channel my passion to inspire and transform others. I believe that the learning process is empowering and that inquisitive minds derive pleasure from learning experiences long after leaving college. My goal is to help students learn, become critical thinkers, and provide them with the necessary skills to be successful in their careers.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

The PhD Project was instrumental to my development as an academic. The organization showed me the path I could take to mentor the next generation and its network of support was crucial for the successful completion of my doctoral program.

What do you love about teaching?

Making a difference! I see everyday the impact that I have on our community, serving as a role model, inspiring achievement and influencing the minds of the next generation of business leaders. I am inspired and energized in the classroom. I consider myself privileged to be able to contribute to business students’ intellectual growth. I also recognize that students learn in a variety of ways and so I seek to create a rich and diverse environment that is conducive to learning. Ultimately, I think that my role as an educator must challenge students to take ownership of their learning experience. Doing so requires flexibility and creativity on the part of the instructor; thus, I am consistently thinking creatively about my teaching and designing coursework so that I may offer students superior opportunities for learning.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

There were many, but my biggest inspiration has been my mother, also an educator, she instilled love for learning and encouraged me to pursue whatever made my heart pump. She nurtured my learning with a unyielding belief in my potential – such safety net was essential in allowing me to take the risks that have ultimately shaped my academic career.


Honoring Dr. José Antonio Rosa


Dr. José Antonio Rosa

Professor of Marketing

Iowa State University

Ames, IA

José Antonio Rosa, a marketing department faculty member of Iowa State University’s College of Business since 2015 and a member of the editorial review board of the Journal of Marketing, has spent more than two decades teaching and mentoring students on the principles of marketing, consumer behavior, and marketing management and strategy at undergraduate, graduate professional, executive, and doctoral levels.  In addition to his teaching contributions and serving as a distinguished author of scholarly articles across marketing and management journals, Rosa is an advisory board member for ACR Transformative Consumer. Rosa has also earned numerous awards, including the Williams-Qualls-Spratlen Multicultural Mentoring Award from the American Marketing Association, induction to the PhD Project Hall of Fame, the Academy of Marketing Science Outstanding Marketing Teacher Award, the Most Influential Professor designation by the Latino Formal Committee at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and top professor and faculty mentor award at multiple institutions.  Rosa holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Psychology and a M.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, an MBA from Dartmouth College and a B.I.A. from General Motors Institute.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

My journey to the professoriate was somewhat protracted. I first developed an interest while still an undergraduate student at GMI, and revisited the idea in the early 80s.  Family needs led me to postpone entry to a doctoral program until the late 80s.  All along, I was drawn to being a professor by loving to learn and to share what I learned, and by wanting to help others be as good as they can be.  I had some very good professors in my different courses of study, and I wanted to do what they did, and for others to feel how they helped me feel.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

My doctoral studies predate the PhD Project, but I received financial support from the Ross School of Business Administration and the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. I was also helped by individual professors, such as Dr. William Qualls, Dr. Richard Bagozzi, Dr. Karl Weick, Dr. Lance Sandelands, and Dr. Richard Price, all at the University of Michigan.  Their example for mentoring and nurturing doctoral students inspired my efforts with PhD Project participants and in various doctoral programs.  As it pertains to my efforts with undergraduate students, I received support from Dr. Kimberly Judson, Dr. Kent Monroe, and the late Dr. Seymour Sudman at the University of Illinois, and from Dr. Mohan Reddy and Dr. Stan Cort at Case Western Reserve University.  Their example and willingness to allow me to experiment with innovative and technologically rich teaching methods proved very important to my development.

What do you love about teaching?

There are many things to love about teaching, and what I value most has changed over the years. Early in my career it was the mounting energy that came about in the classroom as the students grasped the material and took off with ideas. More recently, I am also appreciative of contributing in small ways to a healthier society by serving as a role model to underrepresented minority students, and by opening the eyes of nonminority students to the capabilities that may exist in their peers who may look or sound a little different, but are nevertheless smart and committed to excellence.  Classroom energy keeps me alive and young at heart, and the hope of a better society helps me maintain an open mind and heart.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

The influence of good teachers in my life has been palpable and enduring, dating back to Mrs. Licha and Ms. Lepper in high school, to Dr. Harry Patterson and Dr. Jim Fordyce at GMI, to Dr. Robert Guest and Dr. Dennis Logue at Dartmouth College, to the University of Michigan professors mentioned earlier. K-12 and higher education in the US are national treasures because of thousands who give of themselves to the children and young minds placed in their care.

Honoring Dr. Susana Muñoz


Dr. Susana Muñoz

Assistant Professor of Higher Education

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, CO

Originally from Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, Dr. Susana Muñoz is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education at Colorado State University (CSU). She is also a Faculty Affiliate appointment with the Ethnic Studies Program. Her scholarly interests center on the experiences of underserved populations in higher education. Specifically, she focuses her research on issues of access, identity, and college persistence for undocumented Latina/o students, while employing perspectives such as Latino critical race theory, Chicana feminist epistemology, and college persistence theory to identify and deconstruct issues of power and inequities as experienced by these populations. Her first book “Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education: The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists” (Peter Lang Publishing) highlights the lives of 13 activists who grapple with their legality as a salient identity. She received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Latina/o Knowledge Community through the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators in recognition of her outstanding research and teaching as a faculty member. Dr. Muñoz received her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Iowa State University. Her dissertation study received the Iowa State Research Excellence award. Most recently, she was named a Global Ambassador to the Global Access to Post-Secondary Education (GAPS) organization.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

Prior to my professorship, I spent 13 years as a college administrator and my original plan was to be a Dean of Students at a large university after obtaining my doctorate. I never saw myself as a faculty member primarily because, prior to my doctoral studies, I never had Latina faculty as instructors. It made me think that perhaps I was not capable of that position. It wasn’t until I received my ASHE/Lumina Foundation dissertation fellowship that I became exposed to the nuances of faculty life through trainings on publishing your dissertation findings and by connecting with other women of color who had ambitions of becoming faculty. The more I met women of color who were inclined to join the academy, the less I resisted this option. I also wanted my research to influence how college administrators make decisions or create policies to support undocumented college students. After completing my dissertation research on undocumented Mexicana college students, I unveiled new questions to answer, so I wasn’t ready to leave the research process.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

Most college professors are not trained to teach in a classroom. We are trained in our respective discipline. However, in my doctoral studies, I took a class on college teaching and curriculum development both which were extremely helpful in understanding content planning and learning theories. I also learn through my own reflexivity of my teaching by journaling about how my class content and delivery worked (or not), which helps me to better understand my own areas of improvements and to identify new ideas or teaching techniques to adopt next time. I am intentional about creating learning opportunities inside the classroom so that students can engage and learn from one another. I do this in the form of group starter activity, turn to your partner dialogues, and by asking them to critically reflect on their own learning. I have come to learn that it is not important that students know the answers to my questions but rather create or imagine new questions of their own.

What do you love about teaching?

There are so many things I love about teaching. I love that I have the opportunity to prepare the next generation of administrators and scholars to address these deep-rooted inequities and injustices in meaningful ways. I discuss racism, whiteness, and inequities in my class and while my students may not leave my class as experts, they do obtain a healthy level of comfortability with engaging in tough dialogues around equity. If we truly hope to tackle the social problems that exist within the context of higher education, then we need to equip our students to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. My greatest joy is when students are able to make meaning of their own of their intersecting identities and develop critical consciousness to question their own college contexts.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

To be honest, during my K-12 experiences I didn’t have one teacher who stood out in a meaningful way. My teachers were certainly helpful, kind, and effective, but I don’t recall cultivating any meaningful relationships which would inspire me to shift my thinking or actions.

For me, my inspiration came from taking Latin@ Studies courses during my undergraduate years at Iowa State University. I was part of the first inaugural course which was taught by Dr. Hector Avalos. He and Latin@ Studies classes helped me to realize that my culture mattered, that Latinas mattered, and that my voice mattered. It also inspired me to seek out Chicana writers like Gloria Anzaldúa, who introduced me to notion of Chicana feminism. It felt liberating. Someone finally gave voice to my experiences, to what I endured growing up, and to what was missing in my educational experiences. It also inspired me to be a student activist on my campus. This is why I believe teaching can empower others. We have the power to privilege and silence certain bodies of knowledge in our classroom. Each semester, I constantly assess my syllabus and ask myself, ‘who’s voices are missing?’


Honoring Dr. Cristóbal Rodríguez


Dr. Cristóbal Rodríguez

Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Howard University

Washington, DC

Dr. Cristóbal Rodríguez is currently in his third year as an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education at Howard University in Washington DC, where “the goal is the elimination of inequities related to race, color, social, economic and political circumstances”. Prior to residing at Howard University, Dr. Rodriguez spent five years at his B.A. and M.A. degreed alma mater of New Mexico State University as in assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Administration. Dr. Rodríguez received his Ph.D. in Educational Policy & Planning at The University of Texas at Austin in 2009, with an emphasis on education research, evaluation, and policy analysis with a social and cultural historical focus. Prior to his doctoral studies, Dr. Rodriguez has worked in high school and university settings enhancing college access and success for diverse students. Being born and raised in the Texas Borderlands of El Paso under hard-working immigrant parents from Mexico, and studying in Germany as a U.S. Congress-German Bundestag scholar has shaped the world views and research of Dr. Rodríguez. Dr. Rodríguez’ research centers on diverse demographics and explores how policy and leadership influence equity and access for diverse populations throughout the educational pipeline.

Why did you choose to become a professor?

Simply put, in order to have a greater sphere of influence on improving the conditions and educational experiences of diverse students and communities, we must play a critical role in shaping both educational leaders, systems, and policies that achieve equal and fair educational outcomes.

What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?

While I have been trained as a teacher, and have worked as a high school teacher that laid a foundation for engaging students in the classroom, my greatest tool for teaching is constantly reflecting on a daily basis on connecting the dots with my students, meaning how our work connects to improving the education of diverse children. From today’s course syllabi, whether online or face-to-face delivery, my engagement with students is always about envisioning their leadership and scholarship to achieve the same connecting of dots, from our work to the education of children.

What do you love about teaching?

When students and teacher(s) express their emotions and passions when making sense of the current inequities in their own spaces and organizations, there is this amazing moment of empowerment where we see ourselves as leaders or advocates, or as scholar practitioners, that believe in their own efforts to improve the education of diverse students and move towards equal and fair educational outcomes.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

First, I continue to enjoy being a student today when learning with my students and colleagues. Second, I have had numerous inspiring teachers, through my elementary, middle, and high school experiences in El Paso, Texas from the beautiful Borderlands, as an exchange student from the teachers at the Dominican catholic gymnasium, as an undergraduate and master’s student of my first alma mater of New Mexico State University, and the scholars at The University of Texas at Austin on becoming a scholar myself. While, I have had great teachers reflecting various philosophies and identities, there are particularly numerous Chicana/o teachers that have shaped who I am today, and have been critical to my own identity and knowledge because of who they are.