CELTSS hosts annual Distinguished Faculty Awards event on Zoom

By Patrick Brady

Staff Writer

The Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, Scholarship, and Service (CELTSS) honored four distinguished members of the faculty.

The talk was presented via Zoom, Oct. 5.

Each member received a Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence for their contributions to the Framingham State community.

Patricia Sánchez-Connally, sociology professor, received the Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Satish Penmatsa, computer science professor received the Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Work.

Pamela Sebor-Cable, chair of the fashion design and retailing department, received the Award for Excellence in Advising/Mentoring.

Jon Huibregtse, the current director of CELTSS and history professor, received the Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

Lina Rincón, sociology professor, introduced each recipient, congratulated them on their award, and welcomed them to speak to their fellow faculty members.

Before Sánchez-Connally began her speech, she told everyone to think back to their favorite teacher from middle school or high school and to drop “one word of how they made you feel” in the Zoom chat.

After reading the chat’s responses, Sánchez-Connally said to keep the feelings in mind while she read her speech.

She began her speech by thanking her colleagues who nominated her, and gave a shout out to her students, family, and friends for attending the event.

“I am beyond humbled, grateful, and hopeful to proudly accept this award for excellence in teaching,” she said.

Sánchez-Connally then proceeded to show her medal. She explained how the award was very symbolic and special to her, since she came from a “long line” of educators.

Although she did not know she’d become a teacher at first, Sánchez-Connally described how she grew up surrounded by “warrior women” who earned their living as teachers.

Sánchez-Connally said, “Women like my mother, my Abue, my tias, living here and in El Salvador, who despite huge losses, struggles, and fears, woke up every single day to make sure their children were fed and went to school looking presentable.

“Nothing is more important to me than to represent you and make you proud in order to acknowledge and show respect for the numerous sacrifices that you have all made for people like me to be here,” she added.

Sánchez-Connally said she’s a proud immigrant from El Salvador, a former undocumented student, and comes from a working, lower-class family.

“I’ve learned to live each day, knowing that I am honoring my ancestors and the loved ones that I have lost who cannot be here to witness this special moment,” she said.

She explained how she has learned to transform her classroom into a brave space.

She said, “You see, people like me, those of us who either have parents who left careers – nice jobs in s***-hole countries – to come here and clean our offices or those who did not have the opportunity to attend college and work two to three jobs just to make ends meet understand that higher education is a privilege.

“A college diploma is a significant benchmark of success among many immigrant, first-generation, and working-class families,” Sánchez-Connally added. “Yet, for many students of color, first-generation students and/or immigrants, the process of attaining a college diploma can feel like a very isolating, slow, and painful torture.”

Sánchez-Connally concluded her speech by emphasizing how leadership helps to recognize people’s weaknesses and identify others strengths.

“Everyone has valued knowledge, and embracing and celebrating it is what can lead to all those good feelings that you shared with us at the beginning of my talk,” she said. “Things that you, and many others, are capable of feeling and providing in our classrooms.”

Penmatsa spoke next, showing off his medal before beginning his speech.

“It’s quite heavy,” he said – his statement was followed by laughter from the audience.

After getting his PowerPoint set up, Penmatsa said he got his Ph.D. in computer science in 2007 from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Prior to his graduate studies, he said he knew nothing about research.

“During my master’s program, my thesis advisor sat by me and praised me,” he said. “He had seen my hard work and capability to understand complex algorithms.

“It is because of his motivation that I went ahead and completed some important work in my field,” Penmatsa added.

Even though he uses most of his time to allocate teaching activities, Penmatsa said he is now trying to find time for scholarly activities as well.

He explained how even though he is successful in coming up with articles and publishing them, he doesn’t always meet the deadlines, based on his work schedule.

“The more time we have, the better quality of work we present,” he said. “Time is always a constraint.

“My attending of these conferences and connections that I’ve made helps me with my activities and engagement to students,” he added.

After thanking Framingham State for supporting his engagement at the conferences, Penmatsa said he still keeps in touch with his former colleagues. “I would have not succeeded in my publications without them,” he concluded.

Rincón then invited Sebor-Cable to speak.

Sebor-Cable congratulated her fellow recipients and thanked Rincón for bestowing the title of “doctor” on her.

“My journey began, as many, as an adjunct professor for many colleges,” she began.

She explained how one of her colleagues paved the way for her to become a professor. After balancing two fashion jobs at once, Sebor-Cable said it became apparent that she couldn’t continue with both careers, due to the stress.

Since she chose the job as being a professor, Sebor-Cable said she had to go back to school because an MFA was required for the profession.

“Perhaps my many years of being a student helped me empathize with other students,” she said. “It was always productive when I could help a student with a challenge.

“Students helped me grow as well,” she added.

Sebor-Cable then proceeded to share a presentation, recapping the multiple things she’s done for the fashion design department over the years.

“In our department, much learning takes place outside of the classroom,” she said. “I get to use my skills, learn new skills, and help students as well.

“I’d like to take a moment to thank the Alumni House for the donations they’ve made,” she added. “Speaking of donations, I’ve been in touch with many big and small businesses in New England to supply fabrics to our students.”

Sebor-Cable also thanked the library for providing space for her events.

Most notably, Sebor-Cable said she spearheaded a project in 2011 to remember 9/11. She said children decorated each individual star on the American flag.

“Every garment tells a story,” she said.

Speaking about COVID-19, Sebor-Cable said she’s been able to make it work by having the students remain socially distant.

“Fashion can make statements,” she concluded.

Huibregtse spoke last and discussed the ways in which biographies played an important role in his teaching career.

He began with a funny remark before he started his speech.

“Since everyone showed off their medals, I’ll show off mine,” he said. “This is the first medal I’ve gotten since high school track.

“If you ever have to come up with something to say about yourself, it’s not easy,” he added.

When he arrived at Framingham State in 1977, Huibregtse explained how it was called Framingham State College at the time.

“In my first year at FSU, my colleagues made it very clear that I needed to be on a committee,” he said. “Not knowing any better, I got myself onto a curriculum committee.

“I was the chair of the curriculum committee before I was even tenured,” he added.

Huibregtse explained how when he was chair, he hired six of the current nine history professors.

“The people we hired brought new and exciting ideas,” he said.

He said he’s currently writing a biography.

As a historian, Huibregtse said he reads biographies out of curiosity and is fascinated with how the authors can still treat people with respect after overcoming controversy.

After his remarks, Huibregtse shared a PowerPoint.

“Early in my tenure as chair, I clearly remember wanting to be on CELTSS,” he said. “The committee met at 7:30 in the morning.

“Right out of college, I was an assistant coach of a college cross country team,” he added.

Huibregtse explained how he enjoyed being an assistant director of CELTSS, much more than an assistant coach.

“Always listen to colleagues in such a way that they will know you listened to them,” he concluded. “Surround yourself with capable people.”