Loyola University Chicago

School of Education

2008 Award Citation

Higher Education Program Distinguished Alumnus/a Award

Presentation Remarks Made By
Terry E. Williams, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Program Director
American College Personnel Association Annual Convention
Atlanta, Georgia
March 31, 2008 

This current academic year marks a period of important transition and exciting and positive change for the Higher Education program at Loyola.  This transition, in large measure, involved the arrival this past August of two new outstanding faculty scholars to our program, Drs. John Dugan and Mark Engberg, and the return to the full-time faculty in the fall of 2008 of Dr. Jennifer Haworth who first joined our faculty in 1994 and, who, for the past few years, has been on ‘loan’ to Loyola for senior administrative service in the university’s division of mission and ministry.  Together, students will benefit from having four full-time faculty members offering classes, advising and mentoring, and directing student research in addition to maintaining active research programs and contributing to our expanding knowledge base in our field.

Additionally, an important element of this year’s transition has been our decision to establish an award that recognizes an outstanding graduate of either our master’s or doctoral program in Higher Education.  We have had a master’s program in place since the early 1960’s and our Higher Education doctoral program since 1982 and we now have hundreds of graduates serving in higher education throughout the nation providing outstanding service. This award is presented to one individual who embodies the core values of our program, the School of Education, and the University and whose professional practice exemplifies the traditions of a true scholar-practitioner.

With tremendous pride, I am delighted to announce that our 2008 Higher Education Program Distinguished Alumnus/a Award recognizes the outstanding contributions to the higher education community of a very special graduate of our program.  This year’s award goes to Dr. Sandria Rodriguez, a 1998 Ph.D. graduate.

Sandria came to our program with the highest recommendations from those with whom she had worked over many years in higher education; she came with exceptional academic credentials, and with a long record of outstanding service both in K-12 education as well as higher education. For 13 years, Sandria served the College of Lake County as Dean of Communication Arts, Humanities, and Fine Arts, the largest academic division at her expanding, comprehensive two-year college.  As a creative, caring and innovative administrator, Sandria provided academic leadership for the creation of several new programs which revealed her uncanny foresight in meeting the changing needs of the community served by her college.  Her energy and dedication to students, faculty, and her community led to valued new programs. For example, these programs prepared certified teachers in the Spanish language in a region where a great need existed for bilingual teachers. She developed a high quality ESL program for a growing number of non-native speakers of English; and during a time of severe faculty shortages, she led the development of an innovative internship program in collaboration with universities in the region where master’s and doctoral candidates could teach courses at her two-year college under the tutelage of a master professor.

Sandria was an outstanding student in our doctoral program and her culminating research for her dissertation received a vote of distinction from her faculty research committee, an honor reserved for only a handful of Ph.D. graduates each year.  Sandria’s research on the challenges faced by first-generation college students and the support networks that lead these students to academic success led her to author a book entitled Giants Among Us:  First-Generation College Graduates Who Lead Activist Lives, which was published by the prestigious Vanderbilt University Press in 2002.  This book immediately received rave reviews from throughout the higher education community nationally; and several prominent scholars and practitioners raised their voices to recommend Sandria’s book.  For example, Michael Eric Dyson wrote that “[Sandria] Rodriguez has produced one of the finest educational narratives of our times, telling the stories of 17 figures who managed to find fulfillment in the midst of distressing obstacles, much like Rodriguez, a giant in her own right.” Similarly, Laura Rendon, wrote that “Rodriguez masterfully weaves her life journey with stories of activists’ lives to powerfully chronicle how education, family, culture, and sheer determination are involved in struggles for equity, liberation, and social change.  This is a GIANT achievement, a must-read for every educator."

Throughout her career, Sandria has always found the time and energy to give back to her community through active and inspirational involvement in many community and professional organizations.  Her outstanding service has resulted in her receiving many honors and awards from community and higher education groups.  Loyola itself awarded Sandria in 2003 its prestigious Damen Award, named after Loyola’s Jesuit founder and first President, the Rev. Arnold Damen, S.J. This award is given to an alumna or alumnus from each school or college at Loyola to recognize the qualities of leadership and service to others that all Loyolans are asked to embody.

Sandria is the daughter of farmers who did not complete elementary school themselves but who shared a dream that she and her four siblings would receive a college education, a dream that was realized for her parents by all their children.  Sandria’s personal and professional life and her ongoing contributions to society reflect the values instilled by her parents in all their children.  Her parents and others who supported her were the ‘Giants’ in her life on whose shoulders she stood as she labored tirelessly throughout the years to serve others and to achieve all that she has accomplished.

I can think of no graduate more deserving to receive our program’s first distinguished alumnus/a award than Dr. Sandria Rodriguez.  There are countless individuals all across the nation who have in some way benefited from her teaching, scholarship, and service as part of her wonderful life journey.  I thank Sandria for all that she has given to others and offer my heart-felt congratulations not only to her but also to her partner and husband Dr. Raymond Rodriguez and to their daughter, Dr. Navarra Rodriguez, an honors graduate of Harvard University and medical school graduate of Columbia University.  While Sandria was unable personally to join us tonight here in Atlanta, she is aware of this award and has been listening in through a phone connection during this presentation.  Please join me in offering our congratulations to Sandria on receiving this award.