In February, Indiana Campus Compact awarded Dr. Cristina Santamaría Graff, Assistant Professor of Special Education at the IU School of Education at IUPUI, with the 2019 Douglas Hiltunen Award.
Presented at the 9th Annual Service Engagement Summit and Awards Gala, the award, established in 2000 to honor the late Indiana Campus Compact staff member, Brian Douglas Hiltunen, recognizes faculty who are exemplars of the scholarship of engagement.
These faculty members are leaders in the field and they share their knowledge with colleagues, students, and the community.
Santamaría Graff joins a list of 23 distinguished engaged scholars from across Indiana who have been awarded the Hiltunen Award in its 19-year history.
She is a former bilingual education and bilingual special education teacher who is currently interested in the ways in which culture, language, and ability intersect in school systems. Through her community-based research project Family as Faculty (FAF), families are positioned as experts or “faculty.” They co-plan and teach special education university courses centered on families’ issues, rights, and challenges in special education.
“I desire for FAF models to be conceptualized more broadly as tangible approaches to creating school-based mechanisms for integrating families as mutual partners with school leaders and centering family leadership as a driving force for how, when, where, and why specific decisions are made for students,” Santamaría Graff said.
Her experience as a fifth grade student teacher in Mexico City in a B-CLAD (Bi-lingual, Cross-cultural, Language and Academic Development) program through California State University, Long Beach, showed her the importance of ensuring her classroom was “an inclusive and welcoming space for all students and their families.” Despite being a new teacher, she was welcomed as a community member, teacher, and in some cases, family. So, when she returned back to the States, she remembered that experience and it became personal, because her father is from Coahuila, México, where “being welcomed ‘formally’ into a school community was an integral part of one’s socialization as a ‘member’ of that community,” Santamaría Graff said. These experiences led to her current work.
Laura Weaver, Director of Programs and Member Development at Campus Compact said, “Her teaching and research, which not only centers around Latinx immigrant families of children with disabilities, but is also in authentic partnerships with them, strives to ensure that the students in her courses are learning to approach teacher education through the lens of compassionate action and critical praxis.”
Weaver adds, “It has been my pleasure to work with Cristina over the past two years during her time as an Indiana Campus Compact Faculty Fellow and have witnessed not only her dedication to the field and her students, but especially to her community partners and her partnering families.”
Santamaría Graff said, “I am greatly appreciative to be honored by an award that recognizes service to the community. She added, “However, this is a shared honor and has more to do with the families with whom I work and collaborate than it does with any individual accomplishments or recognitions. This honor means that families of children with disabilities are being recognized as strong and powerful leaders who embody the values inherent in transformative change: integrity, respect for self and others, compassion, empathy, tenacity, and an uncompromising passion for fairness and equity.”