faculty at diversity breakfast

Two CAH faculty members received awards at the 2018 Valarie Green King Diversity Breakfast on October 15. Dr. Ilenia Colón Mendoza won the Faculty/Staff Award Diversity Impact Award and Dr. M.C. Santana was honored with the 2018 Valarie Greene King Career Inclusion Impact Award.

Dr. Ilenia Colón Mendoza teaches two diversity courses with designation at UCF, Latin American Art and Women in Art, and is an affiliate in both Women’s and Gender Studies and Latin American Studies in addition to Art History in the School of Visual Arts and Design. Her research about diversity and Latino artists has been published in many publications, and she was awarded a diversity grant from the Renaissance Society of America. She has presented on diversity in teaching at two national conferences and two local conferences, including the Diversity Track of the Summer Faculty Development Conference. She has served on the Latin American Studies Advisory Board, Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory Board, and as vice-president of LaFASA. She continues to look for opportunities for diversity and inclusion, especially as it relates to feminist art. Colón Mendoza has curated two shows related to Latino and Caribbean Art in the UCF Art Gallery.

Dr. M.C. Santana, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and associate professor, has been fusing media, gender studies and leadership in her classes and research long before she joined the College of Arts and Humanities in 2009. She joined UCF’s faculty in 1995 as an assistant journalism professor with the then-Nicholson School of Communication. She continues to be involved in the journalism master’s thesis and honor’s thesis programs and served as the division head for journalism. She enjoyed her work with journalism students, but when Dean José Fernández asked her to move to Women’s Studies as director in 2009, she said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Over the last 21 years, her research and experience in higher education have taken her to India, Brazil, Perú, Canada, Spain, Russia and Cuba among other countries. Santana is a champion for social justice and women’s rights, with her leadership earning her multiple awards in Central Florida and abroad. She is an award-winning professor with four teaching awards in the last decade. She is the faculty advisor for student organizations and collaborates with community partners. She serves as co-chair of the International Task Force of the National Women’s Studies Association. Santana is a partner with the Farmworker Association of Florida of Woman to Woman, a one-day conference for women every spring. Santana is a certified salary negotiator with the American Association of University Women and a Speaker on Demand in Florida with the same organization.

Santana appreciates CAH’s interdisciplinary nature and has embodied those values in her work. “We have 62 faculty affiliates that teach with WGST,” she says. “It shows the collaboration is there, and they really want to work with everyone.”

When Santana is not teaching and inspiring young women at UCF, she’s volunteering at the League of Women Voters, the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council, the American Association of University Women, teaching at her church and at the Farmworker Association of Florida. She specifically works with farm workers in Apopka, helping raise awareness about women farmworkers’ plight and helping empower them.

“The Women’s and Gender Studies program is needed because no other academic unit focuses on the history of women’s achievements, problems and struggles,” Santana said of women’s studies at UCF. “Most of the history books in our country only make reference to men’s office, politics, achievements and such.

After such a career, this award is a very touching recognition, Santana comments. “To be honored for something that is so close to my core and what I do … It’s something I have done all my life. I don’t see it as a task or chore but as a necessity. For everyone.”

Santana feels the current environment at UCF is encouraging, especially in initiatives working to incorporate every aspect and level of diversity. “It starts in the interpersonal, then the unit, then the policy,” she says. The increased interest in inclusion and genuine conversations with complex discussions can lead to a better campus for everyone.

For faculty, Santana recommends citing and utilizing different sources and case students to include diverse voices. “Think of including others’ points of view and listen to their experiences. This helps students think of scholars not as other but as another.”

For students, Santana reiterates that this is the environment to learn about other experiences in culture, opinion, language – “This is the place to analyze, criticize, learn how to dissect information instead of accepting without understanding. An explanation is the core of good communication and understanding.”

“Everyone can contribute. Everyone can do a better job,” she affirms.

The 26th annual celebration of UCF’s Diversity Week is October 15-21, kicking off with the Dr. Valarie Greene King Diversity Breakfast. WGST is hosting two events this week, ACE Women’s Network “Best Negotiating Practices and Women Warriors.
For the full Diversity Week events schedule, visit https://diversity.ucf.edu/diversity-week-calendar/.