A Closer Look: Four Saint Mary’s Faculty Honored for Teaching, Scholarship, and Service
First in a four-part series taking a deeper dive with educators recognized for their contributions to the College in 2023.
ABOVE: Saint Mary’s Scholars Shine: From left, Bedford Palmer II, Counseling Department, Inclusive Excellence, Justice and Liberation Award; Robin Dunn, Kinesiology, Service Award; Mary Raygoza, Teacher Education, Early Career Award; Aaron Lee, Physics & Astronomy, Early Career Award
In the first installment of our series, we look at four of the eight faculty members presented with a 2023 Faculty Award.
One of the six opportunities laid out in Saint Mary’s new Transformation 2028 strategic plan is to “empower diverse learners” to succeed. Empowering diverse learners requires outstanding educators, and nearly two dozen faculty members at Saint Mary’s were recognized as such at the College’s annual Scholars Reception. Specifically, honorees were recognized for their exemplary teaching, meaningful service, and commitment to research, scholarship, and creative output.
“The intellectual depth, curiosity, and creative teaching ability of our faculty is beyond impressive,” said Corey Cook, Saint Mary’s Executive Vice President and Provost. “Professors at our College are cited time and time again by our alumni as having made a lasting impact on their careers and personal growth. They do a magnificent job and I’m thrilled whenever we have an opportunity to honor them publicly.”
The Scholars Reception showcases the achievements of tenure-track faculty members for excellence in teaching, advising, service, inclusivity, justice and liberation, and scholarship The event also announces the recipients of the Provost’s Faculty Research Grant.
Inclusive Excellence, Justice, and Liberation Award – Dr. Bedford Palmer II, Counseling Department
“From the moment he stepped on campus, Dr. Palmer has pursued service activities that made the campus a more inclusive and equitable community, especially for our Black undergraduate and graduate students,” wrote his nominators.
Dr. Palmer is renowned for inspiring his Counseling students to demonstrate clinical behaviors that respect the inherent dignity of all people. Having served as the Counseling Department chair since 2019, too, he led the department through the pandemic, supported cultural shifts, and fostered a productive, equitable working environment grounded in respect for all persons.
Complementing his teaching, Dr. Palmer’s research adheres to Lasallian values by consistently advancing agendas that advocate for social justice, specifically in terms of attending to issues of societal power and unearned privilege, racial justice education, and culturally responsive and idenitity affirming psychology.
Dr. Palmer has become a thought-leader and model for his colleagues nationwide. He serves as the current Vice President of Professional Practice of the Society of Counseling Psychology (Division 17) of the American Psychological Association (APA), and was the Past President of the Alameda County Psychological Association and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Black Psychologists.
Dr. Palmer has become a thought-leader and model for his colleagues nationwide.
He has given over 25 academic presentations and has recieved over 45 invitations as a keynote, faciltator, or panelist at venues across the country and internationally, sparking dialogues around topics like solidarity and allyship, multicultural competence among counselors, and the benefits of an African-centered worldview for the psychological health of Black individuals.
He has published in seminal outlets on issues related to Black communities and mental health, including The Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences and Journal of Black Psychology, and he is the editor of the newly-published Practical Social Justice: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategies Based on the Legacy of Dr. Joseph L. White.
Perhaps most emblematic of the impact of Dr. Palmer’s social justice work at Saint Mary’s is his leadership in the development and implementation of 44 Days: Honoring Black History, now in its sixth year.
He served as co-chair and chair of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Committee from 2017 to 2020, and led the celebration’s events in 2019, leading a conversation with Angela Rye as the keynote event for the 2021 celebration. These events have transformed the awareness of Black History and Culture at the College, and most importantly, have centered Black voices and the experiences of our Black students. In this and all he does at Saint Mary’s, Dr. Palmer works tirelessly to empower others and transform systems, practices, policies, and potentialities.
Faculty Service Award – Dr. Robin J. Dunn, Department of Kinesiology
For Dr. Robin J. Dunn, service means more than just a way to enhance one’s curriculum vitae. As a faculty member, she has a strong commitment to service in her Department of Kinesiology, the School of Liberal Arts, the College, and in the larger educational community. Her record of service demonstrates her commitment to contributing to all levels of the College and her overall understanding of the critical responsibility that service has in upholding its mission.
During the pandemic years, Dr. Dunn and other colleagues offered Racial Justice and Healing Justice Forums to discuss the challenges of anti-Blackness, what it means to be an ally, and how to work towards building community. Within the broader field of Health Promotion, she offers her community engagement course, which for several years focused on health promotion for underserved children and youth. As part of this focus, she developed community engagement partnerships with Reading Partners, Alameda Point Collaborative, Moraga School District, and Oakland Education Fund. With our return to on-campus teaching, she developed new partnerships with Student Life, CAPS, and the CARE Center for SMC community focus.
One of her nominating colleagues wrote: “What has particularly impressed me is her confident move toward leadership positions that allow her to promote social justice issues. She is currently serving as a senator on the Academic Senate, and to be elected to this important position underscores that her colleagues respect her voice and trust her to represent their interests.”
During the pandemic years, Dr. Dunn and other colleagues offered Racial Justice and Healing Justice Forums to discuss the challenges of anti-Blackness, what it means to be an ally, and how to work towards building community.
Dr. Dunn also serves as the faculty co-chair of the Black Leadership Coalition (formerly Black Lives Matter). Her duties are substantive and include facilitation of bi-monthly meetings with the BLC subcommittee; the making of collaborative decisions about the group’s strategic direction, coordination of 44 Days: Honoring Black History, and development of partnerships across campus to organize events for the campus community that lift up and celebrate Black culture. She networks with off-campus partners to strengthen networks and bring dynamic speakers to campus, promoting inclusive excellence, social justice, and equity.
Dr. Dunn says she has “both a deep belief in the mission and the need to satisfy my own sense of well-being. I find service to be a means to stay connected with students and my colleagues across the College.” She describes herself as someone who is “social and collaborative,” and she manifests that part of her personality by working with students on their graduation plans, discussing their passions and career goals. She currently serves as an advisor to 44 students, and—since 2016—as Health Promotion (HP) Coordinator.
Dr. Dunn’s Faculty Service award reflects a breadth and depth of service over her eight years of service at Saint Mary’s College. Her dedication to service, Dr. Dunn says, will continue, and she vows to commit time to areas of service that are meaningful to her and support the college in its mission of social justice and inclusive excellence.
Early Career Award – Dr. Mary Raygoza, Teacher Education Department
Dr. Raygoza’s scholarship explores teaching mathematics for social justice, striving to foster what she calls “quantitative civic literacy.” She engages critical qualitative methodologies to center, understand, and uplift the voices and lived experiences of teachers and young people striving for educational equity and anti-racist classrooms.
Dr. Raygoza has published articles in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Urban Education and the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education. She is also a co-author of the book Middle School Mathematics Lessons to Explore, Understand, and Respond to Social Injustice, part of a four-book series on social justice mathematics spanning PK-12. She serves as the Principal Investigator on a recently-awarded five-year, $1.2 million Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Track 1 grant from the National Science Foundation for the project Preparing Humanizing and Culturally Relevant STEM Teachers through STEM Teacher Education Grounded in Justice, Community, and Leadership.
Additionally, in her research and writing, she more broadly contributes to social justice transformation in teacher education in scholarship and presentations alongside her teacher candidate students, such as the article “A classroom united will never be defeated,” published by the California Council of Teacher Education in 2022.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and higher education turned to online instruction, Dr. Raygoza made a name for herself through her articles, podcasts, and talks on “humanizing online teaching.” Her article on the topic is the most-viewed paper in the Saint Mary’s Digital Repository.
Peers and event organizers in her field have taken notice. Since starting at Saint Mary’s in 2017, Dr. Raygoza has presented at conferences worldwide, from MIT’s “The Future of Math Teacher Professional Learning” to Jamaica’s TeachGood LeadGood annual summit. Most recently, she was an invited speaker at the National Council of Math Teachers’ “100 Days of Professional Learning,” where she spoke to an audience of over 1,000 mathematics teachers. She was an Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators STaR (Service, Teaching, and Research) Fellow for early career professors.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and higher education turned to online instruction, Dr. Raygoza made a name for herself through her articles, podcasts, and talks on “humanizing online teaching.”
Throughout her five years at Saint Mary’s, Dr. Raygoza has participated in a range of campus service activities, always rooted in commitment to humanize higher education. Wrote her nominators: “She has embraced the liberatory design framework and is a consistent practitioner of its commitment to interrupt inequity and increase opportunities and access for those most impacted by oppression. She is an inclusive leader who is an exceptional listener with a rare capacity to bring forth and bring together the diverse contributions of others.”
Early Career Award – Dr. Aaron Lee, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Dr. Lee's areas of scholarship include computational astrophysics and introductory astronomy pedagogy. He has published in peer-reviewed journals frequently and widely; he will soon submit an article to the Astrophysical Journal with Dr. Steven Stahler (a collaborator at UC Berkeley) that will form the basis for a chapter of Dr. Stahler's textbook The Formation of Stars, a graduate-level textbook on star formation. Additionally, he recently submitted an article to The Physics Teacher at the request of the editor, where he will share about developing introductory astronomy class labs for non-science majors.
Much of Dr. Lee’s focus on campus has been on revitalizing student involvement in research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. To that end, he has mentored five research students in the past four years and serves on the College’s Committee on Educational Technology and the Committee on Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship. He also works to engage the larger community, sending out “Astronotes” that highlight interesting astronomical phenomena, organizing community observing events, and regularly contributing to the Collegiate Seminar Informal Curriculum Series—a committee on which he has served for three years.
Professor Rebecca Engle wrote that “Professor Lee’s contributions to the Seminar Informal Curriculum are service at the deepest level: an organic integration of his passion for teaching, his dedication to students, and his disciplinary expertise.”
He also works to engage the larger community, sending out “Astronotes” that highlight interesting astronomical phenomena, organizing community observing events, and regularly contributing to the Collegiate Seminar Informal Curriculum Series.
Dr. Lee has been tapped by the local media for several interviews about astronomy. He was featured on KCBS and KTVU-TV discussing the new James Webb Space Telescope and has served as a source for LaMorinda Weekly and its story on the space telescope. On the national level, NASA invited him to give a Universe of Learning Talk, where he discussed the formation of stars with a national group of interested librarians, museum workers, and educators.
Finally, Dr. Lee is dedicated to creating an equitable and inclusive community on campus. He is a founding member of the Que(E)ries subcommittee of the College Committee on Inclusive Excellence, which affirms and celebrates the LGBTQIA+ communities on campus.
In his teaching philosophy for Rank and Tenure, he wrote, “I firmly believe that higher education should be available to anyone and not impacted by socioeconomic, academic, and racial privilege.”Learn more about Saint Mary’s College’s Counseling programs, Kinesiology and Teacher Education departments, and Physics & Astronomy department.
NEXT UP: Part Two in our series will shine a spotlight on four other award-winning Saint Mary’s faculty members making a difference and helping to engage, inspire, and transform the lives of our students. Watch for it!