Colorado Mountain College announces Faculty of the Year Awards

Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid

Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid, associate professor at Colorado Mountain College, left, accepts from college President Dr. Carrie Hauser her award as collegewide full-time Faculty of the Year for 2013. Quesada-Embid teaches sustainability studies at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. Photo Kristin Anderson

When the president of Colorado Mountain College and the vice president of the campus in Edwards unexpectedly showed up in Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid’s classroom recently, they were met with cheers and applause.

That was because Dr. Carrie Hauser and Dr. Peggy Curry were there to tell Quesada-Embid she’d been named the collegewide full-time Faculty of the Year.

Each year, the students, staff and faculty of Colorado Mountain College nominate one outstanding full-time and one adjunct faculty member from each of CMC’s seven campuses and the college’s online learning department. From those honorees, senior administrators then select a collegewide award recipient in each of the two categories.

While the associate professor in Edwards was shocked, her students were not. As President Hauser shared highlights from a recommendation compiled by the Edwards instructional leadership team, a tight group of students nodded and smiled.

Every member of the capstone class in session when the award was announced is actively pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sustainability studies, and each has worked with Quesada-Embid from the beginning of the program.

“She wants to see everyone succeed,” said student Amanda Carter. “We know we’re lucky to have her as our teacher.”

Quesada-Embid’s dedication, high expectations make her classes exceptional

“Mercedes has worked tirelessly to grow the sustainability program and to be creative in envisioning a more rounded experience for students,” said Rachel Pokrandt, the instructional chair who nominated her.

And it’s not just Quesada-Embid’s colleagues who laud her achievements as an instructor. Students, via their end-of-semester evaluations, consistently thank her for coursework that challenged them to take their academic scholarship to a higher level.

“In large part, due to Mercedes,” said student Cici Franklin, “I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

Her words echo the consensus of the core group of students gathered for Quesada-Embid’s capstone class, who have found a path and a passion for sustainability, with her guidance.  “She knows so much about everything,” said capstone student Drew Balfour. “She’s a wealth of knowledge.”

“And she provides a progressive, inclusive and comfortable learning atmosphere,” added fellow student Jay Cline.

Great students, strong role models provide inspiration

“I come from a family of teachers,” said Quesada-Embid. “As I pursued my schooling I had the benefit of learning from and experiencing professors who truly inspired me.”

Now in her third year in a CMC classroom, she strives to help students take charge of their own learning. “What I enjoy the most is watching a student get exposed to material, and then internalize it until it becomes their own,” she said. “When they combine what they’re learning with their professional experience and personal stories, that knowledge becomes meaningful to them beyond the classroom.”

To that end, the capstone sustainability class is designed to provide students with research tools specific to the field and with a focused block of time to explore their own ideas in greater depth. The final products of the capstone class, a professional portfolio and a senior research thesis, become yet other tools to help students gain employment or pursue graduate school after completing their bachelor’s degree.

For instructor, best perks are students, colleagues

Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid

Colorado Mountain College President Dr. Carrie Hauser, left, looks on as student Cici Franklin hugs Associate Professor Dr. Mercedes Quesada-Embid after the instructor was honored as collegewide Faculty of the Year at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. As is CMC’s tradition, the college president made the surprise announcement in the faculty member’s classroom. Photo Kristin Anderson

Quesada-Embid is as enthusiastic about the achievements of her students as they are of hers. “Each of them in their own way has impressed me over and over again,” she said. “Their passion for the material and interest in sustainability, and their desire to see behavioral changes that could shift us toward a more egalitarian society, are things that draw me back into the classroom every single day.”

Quesada-Embid also expressed her gratitude for the support she’s received from her colleagues. “The Edwards campus community, in particular, has been steadfast in facilitating my ability to successfully engage with students inside and outside the classroom,” she said.

“I have had the pleasure of working closely with many of CMC’s faculty and staff across the college, and what I have found is that CMC abounds with individuals dedicated to excellence, who demonstrate their student-centered commitment daily,” she added. “It is truly a privilege to have been nominated and selected among such qualified and exceptional colleagues.

“I am very honored to have been chosen as the recipient for the Colorado Mountain College Faculty of the Year Award,” said Quesada-Embid. “I want to express a special thank you to Rachel Pokrandt and the instructional leadership team in Edwards for thinking of me for this esteemed academic accolade.”