Las Vegas, N.M. – The New Mexico Office of African American Affairs honored a Highlands University professor for being a mentor who empowers her black students.
Gloria Gadsden, a Highlands criminal justice professor, received the office’s Everyday Hero Award.
“I went to a predominantly white institution for both undergraduate and graduate school and know the sense of isolation a black student can experience,” Gadsden said. “When I was in my Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania, I promised myself that I would work at someplace like Highlands where I could help mentor African-American students, and all students, to become part of the college-educated culture.”
Highlands senior Kylee Norman wrote a letter nominating Gadsden for the Everyday Hero award for mentorship.
“Since my freshman year, Dr. Gadsden has made my life here at Highlands nothing but positive vibes,” Norman said. “It was difficult sometimes to be the only black student in class. It was as if Dr. Gadsden wanted me to celebrate being dark skinned and going to school. She would push me to do more and go beyond. Being black is beautiful but being black and educated is a world stopper.”
Gadsden, who joined the Highlands faculty in 2012, said she always strives to provide a safe space where students can be themselves, something she said she didn’t have in college.
“Social and emotional support is just as important when we’re looking at retention as academic support,” Gadsden said.
“Dr. Gadsden is an exceptional mentor to her students, oftentimes taking the initiative to foster and maintain mentorship relationships,” said Shaina Saint-Lot, economic outreach coordinator for the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs. “Dr. Gadsden plays an important role in helping her African-American students adapt to New Mexico culture and university life. She is a constant reminder that they belong at Highlands, helping them recognize their academic abilities and driving them to complete their studies and succeed.”
Saint-Lot said she met a number of Gadsden’s students at a panel discussion about mentorship the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs and the Highlands Campus Life Office jointly sponsored at the university Jan. 18 in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Gadsden’s research focus is the intersection of gender, race and sexuality. At Highlands, she teaches courses such as Criminal Justice System, Institutional Corrections, Criminology, and Comparative Systems of Social Control.
“Social stratification is the branch of sociology that examines power structures,” said Gadsden, who earned a doctorate in sociology with an emphasis in crime and gender. “I want all my students to come away from my classes with a good understanding of social inequality in the United States. They are our next generation of policy makers and I want them to understand these critical issues and make a difference in the world through informed decision making.”
Gadsden holds a number of leadership roles at Highlands. She is the undergraduate coordinator for the criminal justice major, the graduate coordinator for public affairs: applied sociology, and chairs the Academic Affairs Committee.
“My passion is to make Highlands the best institution it can be for our students,” Gadsden said.