Associate Professor Rossella Santagata has received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education at UCI’s 2017 Celebration of Teaching, held May 4 in the UC Student Center.
In nominating Dr. Santagata, Dean Richard Arum and Associate Professor Penelope Collins characterized Dr. Santagata as an exemplary faculty member gifted in teaching across the School of Education's three levels of programs: undergraduate, master's, and PhD.
In the undergraduate program, Rossella Santagata is a mainstay for Education 50 (Origins, Purposes, and Central Issues in K-12 Education), a course that introduces students to the social, historical, philosophical, and political roles of education in American society. These issues are more critical now than ever, and Dr. Santagata’s commitment to promoting understanding of the role of education in providing greater equity and opportunities for diverse students is abundantly evident in her teaching. Her students note that she is particularly skilled at eliciting rich discussions and collaborative problem solving that results in a high level of engagement in her courses. Her commitment to undergraduate education is also evident in her mentorship of lecturers and teaching associates, assisting them in both curricular and instructional design, so that they too can effectively promote mastery of educational science concepts and competencies for our students.
As an expert in teaching and learning, Dr. Santagata’s contributions to undergraduate education extend far beyond the traditional lecture hall. She developed Project CRYSTAL (Cultivating and Researching Youth Systems Thinking through Authentic Learning) in partnership with the UCI Center for Environmental Biology, the Crystal Cove Alliance, and Crystal Cove State Park. In Project CRYSTAL, 4th to 6th grade children, mostly from underserved communities around Orange County, work with UCI undergraduate students and engage in authentic environmental research concerning land conservation and restoration. While the goal of this project is to develop life-long science learners, and support children’s academic achievement, it also provides undergraduate students with meaningful opportunities to serve the community, inspire future science educators, and experience carrying out educational research and evaluation.
Dr. Santagata also is commended for her role in directing the partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) for UCI’s School of Education. She was the architect of the School of Education’s Summer Education Research Internship (SERI) program, which gave undergraduate students from HBCUs a taste of graduate school through participating in research in a lab. Her leadership of this program has supported undergraduates not just in their research, but also in their preparation for academic careers.
Rossella Santagata exemplifies what is best about undergraduate education, and her contributions to undergraduate education reflect the values of UCI: promoting educational opportunities to enhance social mobility and impact, inclusive excellence, and community engagement.