January 20, 2022
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator
Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes Earns Blazer Creed Award for Integrity
|Pictured, from left to right, are Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes, a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Dr. Richard Carvajal, president of VSU.|
VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University recently recognized an elite group of students, faculty, and staff for their steadfast commitment to uphold The Blazer Creed in everything they do, both on campus and in the community — and Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes, a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, was one of them.
As the Blazer Creed states, VSU is a learning environment based on trust and mutual respect, in which open dialogue, vigorous debate, and the free exchange of ideas are welcome. The university is dedicated to the core values of community, including a commitment to practice the following:
Civility — A Blazer shows courtesy and compassion as well as respect for the dignity of every human being.
Integrity — Each Blazer is responsible for his or her own actions, and our community is stronger when we contemplate the context of our decisions and uphold the principles of trust and honesty.
Citizenship — Every Blazer has an interest in the wellbeing of the community and, therefore, a duty to stay informed, to make positive contributions, and to offer support to those who need help.
Serran-Pagan serves as a shining example of what it means to be a Blazer, to treat others with good manners, to act with honesty and have strong moral principles, and to work hard and help others.
VSU News: Who nominated you for this award?
Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes: Three students nominated me — one online student who took several classes with me; one online student who took a Maymester class last year; and one graduate student who is an active member of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Club.
VSU News: What does having integrity mean to you?
Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes: Integrity means everything to me. You cannot have peace of mind if you don’t feel good about the type of work we do as professors and scholars without taking into consideration the ethical and spiritual dimension. Many students and colleagues know the kind of person I am and the rigorous academic work I have been doing at VSU since my arrival in 2007, always putting integrity and honesty first.
VSU News: What went through your mind when you learned that you had won this award?
Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes: The first thing that crossed my mind was why me? Who were the people involved in this decision process? Once I started gathering information and knew who the students were who took the time to nominate me, I read their comments and felt an injection — or a booster — of morale that validates the quality of work done for 21 years in academia. In our current higher education system and high consumeristic society, we are facing many challenges that affect all of us. It is hard to be a person of integrity when many aspects of life are reduced to numbers and money, and they force many of us to adapt and to make tough decisions. But there is a way out to do it with academic integrity without undermining the ethical values that one may adhere to. Naturally, some of us had to face more criticisms when we take the higher road, but it is a wonderful thing to go to bed knowing you did the right thing and having inner peace.
During my time at Valdosta State University, Dr. Serran-Pagan has been one of the best professors I have taken classes from. He can appear tough at first, but he simply gets students to do more than they may think they can accomplish.
His out-of-class works are important, too. The work he does for The Haven, the safe place for survivors of domestic violence, and also with the Philosophy and Religious Studies Club is inspirational.
The Blazer community is stronger because of Dr. Serran-Pagan.
Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan has been a wonderful surprise for me this semester. I am a master's student of social work at VSU, and I had the luck to see an email from Dr. Serran-Pagan announcing the start of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Club. His presence in the club has been admirable, as he has shown me what it looks like for a teacher to really show up for students who have an interest. I am all about religious and philosophical studies, and his style has been wonderful. I have nominated him for integrity as I feel he fully encapsulates this quality. His work reflects as much.
During my time at Valdosta State University, I have had the privilege of being taught by a handful of phenomenal professors. Therefore, choosing one professor out of the bunch has taken much consideration and has not been easy. After much thought and consideration, I have decided to nominate Dr. Serran-Pagan from the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department for the Integrity Creed Award.
As an online student, I have been limited to the courses I have access to. As such, any exceptions or accommodations have had to go through Dr. Downing. In the spring semester of 2021, when I registered to take a class with Dr. Serran-Pagan, I was informed by Dr. Downing that one of the requirements for this course would be to attend every meeting via Teams. Dr. Serran-Pagan expected me to participate in class discussions fully. This has meant each class my face was projected on the wall behind Dr. Serran-Pagan. It was a little awkward at first but over time did not faze me at all. Being able to be involved in his classes to this degree has been a wonderful experience.
Dr. Serran-Pagan has rightfully developed a reputation amongst my peers as being a tough professor. In my first class with him, he made it clear he was aware of his reputation and was careful to fully disclose his expectations from day one. I will admit I was a bit concerned by his friendly warning.
The first paper I received from him was a low B. This was astonishing because I typically get As. I am a good writer; I process the information and articulate my understanding very well. In addition, I am cautious with editing my papers before turning them in. So I never expected what I would consider a bad grade. I will be honest. I was emotionally distraught when I saw that first paper returned. I could have withdrawn, but I have never been a quitter. I had to acknowledge that I lost points because I had errors. And I am at VSU to become a better scholar. So after a couple of days, I sucked it up and studied every error. I wanted to avoid a repeat.
Dr. Serran-Pagan marked off for every inaccuracy on my work cited page and in my in-text citations. The format he used was different from my other professors. Dr. Serran-Pagan uses MLA, so I organized my work cited page, and I thought I did it the right way. He marked me off for every space between the end of a word and a period. Whenever I had double spaces between words, misplaced commas, not adding the words "accessed date" at the end of an article, among other inaccuracies. The first time I saw this, I was overwhelmed. But when the following paper came due, I made a side-by-side comparison. I was determined to get an A. I only got a 90, which was okay, but still not good enough. I repeated the same process with each paper — side-by-side comparisons.
By the end of my first semester, I became proficient at using MLA formatting. I still made mistakes, but not nearly as many. I have also become a pro at going to Purdue Owl and looking up tips for ensuring I follow the proper process. As an aspiring scholar, I recognize having one's work critiqued is necessary. That is how we become the best versions of ourselves. All of my professors critique my work in different ways. It is because of the dedication of the whole department that I am the strong writer I am today. However, Dr. Serran-Pagan gave me a run for my money with how he grades his papers. What I learned in his classes has allowed me to feel confident with my Graduate School sample paper. I recently sent my paper to him and asked him to review my work cited page. I knew he would spot the slightest error. Sure enough, even though I went over it a trillion times, Dr. Serran-Pagan still pointed out errors. I appreciate his eye for detail.
If you're a student that has had Dr. Serran-Pagan, you know exactly what I mean. Every professor points these things out and takes a few points. But Dr. Serran-Pagan provides you with a detailed list of every error you've made. I appreciate this method. It may not work for some students, but it worked for me. And it has strengthened me in this area. Dr. Serran-Pagan's teaching style led me to take three other courses with Dr. Serran-Pagan since last spring.
Dr. Serran-Pagan is only a difficult professor if you choose not to apply his detailed notes to your next paper. If you follow the outline he provides, carefully follow MLA formatting processes, stay mindful of his feedback and ask questions, you will quickly find his classes interesting, enjoyable, engaging, and relatively straightforward.Dr. Serran-Pagan is passionate about teaching students how to do philosophy and religion. He aims to encourage his students to improve their abilities, and he values an education earned through hard work, dedication, and growth. He does not compromise his grading integrity to appease the students that dislike his process. His ethical decision-making is engrained in his work ethic. The Blazer community is stronger because Dr. Serran-Pagan is a valuable member of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Staff. Thank you for your steadfast dedication to your students. I appreciate you.