NMSU convocation includes unveiling of historical sign honoring social justice advocate

August 19, 2015 by Jane Moorman, NMSU News Center

New Mexico State University honored its faculty at the 2015 fall convocation ceremony Wednesday, Aug. 18, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. Every fall and spring, convocation is held to honor excellence on campus.

NMSU Provost and Executive Vice President Dan Howard, far left, and President Garrey Carruthers, far right, stand with 2015 fall convocation awardees, left to right, Merranda Marin, Debra Cardinali, Mary Alice Scott, Janet Sanchez (standing in for Graciela Unguez), and Nathan Brooks. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

NMSU Provost and Executive Vice President Dan Howard, far left, and President Garrey Carruthers, far right, stand with 2015 fall convocation awardees, left to right, Merranda Marin, Debra Cardinali, Mary Alice Scott, Janet Sanchez (standing in for Graciela Unguez), and Nathan Brooks. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

“The heart of every great university, such as NMSU, is its faculty,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Howard during the ceremony. “We hear from students all the time about faculty members who made a difference, who inspired them to achieve at a level greater than they thought possible, and encouraged them to pursue paths they did not believe were open to them. Today, we honored five of those faculty members.”

Nathan Brooks was conferred the Westhafer Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Westhafer is presented in memory of Robert L. Westhafer, professor in the Department of Mathematics from 1946 to 1957. It is given in alternating years for excellence in teaching, and research and creative activity.

Brooks, a professor in the Department of History, received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and Russian from Grinnell College in Iowa. He began graduate school in biochemistry at Princeton University and received a doctorate from Columbia University in Russian history and the history of science.

His research focus is on the history of chemistry in Russia and the Soviet Union, in particular, on Dmitri Mendeleev, the discoverer of the Periodic Law, and Alexander Butlerov, one of the main originators of the structural theory of organic chemistry.

In recent years, Brooks has worked to expand the offerings in world history at NMSU, including introducing a two-semester introductory survey of world history, an upper-division course in 20th Century world history and, most recently, an upper-division course on the Mongol Empire.

He has been able to study different aspects of world history in more detail through a Fulbright-Hays summer award in 2009, and a National Endowment for the Humanities summer award in 2014. He also was selected to participate in a seminar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009.

Merranda Marin, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Mary Alice Scott, Department of Anthropology, were honored with the Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award. This annual award, which is named for Patricia Christmore, former accounting department head, acknowledges and rewards outstanding junior tenure-track faculty members for excellence in teaching.

Marin earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from NMSU in 2007. She holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. A former school counselor, Marin is dedicated to ensuring the academic success of all students and is passionate about building collaborations among and within communities.

The licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist specializes in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly within the context of the family system. Her research interests include the effects of war on family and community systems, evidence-based treatments for PTSD, multicultural counseling and individual and family resilience.

Scott is a medical anthropologist who received her bachelor’s degree in women’s study from Duke University and her master’s and doctorate in anthropology from the University of Kentucky.

Prior to coming to NMSU, Scott ran a youth participatory action research program at Elon University in North Carolina, working with a research team of high school students investigating education inequities in their own county. Her experience with this program contributes to her current research.

A team of NMSU students and faculty members is collaborating with the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency Program, documenting the culture of medical education and designing tools that help physicians better understand and address social determinants of health.

Debra A. Cardinali, College of Business, and Graciela Unguez, Department of Biology, were honored with the Excellence in Academic Advising Award, which recognizes faculty and professional academic advisers for their outstanding achievement and service to NMSU students. Students nominate candidates for the award.

Cardinali, a 16-year veteran academic adviser, has served NMSU since 2004 in different advising roles and within two colleges. She has an associate degree in culinary arts from Contra Costa College in California and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dominican University in Illinois.

Prior to coming to NMSU she served as director of admissions and advising for the MBA program at Dominican University and at Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago.

Unguez joined NMSU in 1999. She holds a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and a Ph.D. in physiological science, both from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her extensive resume of teaching and service to NMSU biology and neuroscience programs includes research mentoring of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral fellows, and serving as associate director and faculty coordinator of the National Institutes of Health Minority Biomedical Research Support Rise to Excellence Program.

This semester’s event was highlighted with the unveiling of a historical marker honoring the legacy of Maria Gutierrez Spencer, advocate for social justice. The sign is located on Espina Street, N.M. 138, between University Avenue and Stewart Street.

Punished for not speaking English in school, Maria Gutierrez Spencer devoted her life to validating the Indo-Hispano experience. A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, and New Mexico State University, she pioneered bilingual and bicultural education in New Mexico, and founded BOLD: Bicultural Orientation and Language Development in Silver City. Maria battled cancer for 50 years, but traveled worldwide to train teachers. She was honored by the Wonder Woman Foundation with Rosa Parks in 1984.

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