Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Congratulations to the College of Humanities’ 2012 Polished Apple Award Recipients

Each spring, the University Ambassadors group at CSUN announces the recipients of its Polished Apples Awards, an annual event now in its 17th year. The awards recognize
faculty whose teaching and mentoring have positively impacted students’ lives. University Ambassadors, who nominate professors for the awards, are volunteer student leaders who serve the university community by giving campus tours, hosting events and promoting CSUN pride in a professional manner. The 2012 presentation ceremony was held in April at the University Student Union.

Susanna Aladzhyan and Tracy Buenavista
Susanna Aladzhyan and Tracy Buenavista
The College is pleased to announce this year’s six recipients from the Humanities:

Ian Barnard, Associate Professor, English
Tracy Buenavista, Assistant Professor, Asian American Studies
James Findlay, Lecturer, Religious Studies
Antonio Gallo, Lecturer, Chicana/Chicano Studies
Robert Gressis, Assistant Professor, Philosophy

Suyapa Portillo, Assistant Professor, Central American Studies

As the awards are motivated entirely by the students they teach, faculty are deeply honored to receive Polished Apples. Robert Gressis was nominated for the award by two students, Karen Castro and Scott Tamaki. “Once I heard that the award existed, it became one of my major goals to get one,” says Gressis. “To have actually succeeded in that goal is extremely gratifying.” Gressis, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Michigan, aims to establish a comfortable rapport in all of his classes, creating discussion environments that are like “a very enjoyable conversation among a group of friends.” In his mentorship efforts, Gressis encourages students to bring pressing philosophical questions to him, jovially characterizing himself as “a kind of philosophical 9-1-1.” He’s pleased to talk such “philosophical emergencies” through with students, jokingly adding, “Luckily, I can’t be sued for philosophical malpractice!”

Sharing Gressis’s reverence for the award is James Findlay. “Although I have received awards and honors in the past for academic and other endeavors, this is perhaps the greatest honor I have ever received,” says Findlay, who split his formative years between the Midwest and New England and earned his Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University in California. “To know that the students I work to empower find what I do valuable and worthwhile gives me great satisfaction.” Findlay, who was nominated by student Evan Sata, shares the reflexive pedagogical approach of many of his fellow honorees. He considers teaching and learning as “an enterprise of mutual exploration,” adding that in seeing learning this way, “students themselves become their own most powerful resource for navigating wisely through a constantly changing world.”

Antonio Gallo couldn’t agree more. “I’ve always said that a good professor or mentor is one that also learns from his student or mentee,” says Gallo, a CSUN alum from East Los Angeles who earned his J.D. at Trinity College in Dublin. “It’s a two-way street; a teacher must also be a student.”

“I learn something from my students every day,” says Ian Barnard, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and earned his Ph.D. in English at the University of California, San Diego. “My favorite part of my job is getting to work with the incredible students at CSUN,” Barnard says. “I have taught at six different universities, and CSUN students are by far the best of the bunch.” He particularly thanks Norma Aceves, who nominated him for the award, “for her dedication to and passion for her studies, and for her compassion to her own students [as a Peer Mentor].”

Tracy Buenavista was herself inspired by faculty mentors to pursue a career in education. Having grown up in Hayward, California, in a working-class family, “my perspective on education was shaped by the lack of college access experienced by many of my family and friends,” she says. She earned her Ph.D. in Education at UCLA, focusing her work on college access and retention of low-income U.S. Pilipinos, and was quickly hired at CSUN, where she says that she has been fortunate to work with students from this community as well as from so many others. Her nominating student was Susanna Aladzhyan. “It was a wonderful experience to hear about the impact educators have had on the academic trajectories of the students who provided testimonies at the Polished Apple ceremony,” Buenavista says. “To be in a room filled with people committed to critical and reflexive pedagogies was a solid reminder as to why I pursued a career in education.”

The College of Humanities congratulates all the 2012 honorees as well as its many faculty members who have received the award over the past 17 years.