March 1, 2022
22-38

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Honors Students, Faculty, Staff with Blazer Creed Awards

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.

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.

The following individuals are shining examples 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.

BLAZER CREED AWARD FOR CITIZENSHIP
Dr. Anne Price, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Undergraduate Sociology Program coordinator and Graduate Sociology Program coordinator

VSU News: Who nominated you for this award?

Dr. Anne Price: I was nominated for this award by two colleagues in the sociology program — AJ Ramirez, lecturer in sociology, and Ellis Logan, assistant professor in sociology.

VSU News: What does being a good citizen mean to you?

Dr. Anne Price: To me, being a good citizen is more than a mindset; it is something that we have to actively practice and prioritize in all of our routine interactions. Good citizens seek to make positive contributions in all of their communities by assessing what the needs are and how they can best be of service. In terms of the university community, good citizens are cooperative, attentive listeners, and skilled at taking on alternative perspectives, whether they are a student in a classroom or an instructor. They may lead and serve on committees, provide feedback (to their students, or as students, to their instructors), and they maintain an awareness of the challenges facing their communities and global society. Good citizens identify problems and take on tasks that need to be done, even if they are not explicitly their responsibility, and they make time for meaningful interactions. VSU has a strong culture of citizenship, and I love to see our students notice this. In sociology, they see the way in which our faculty support our students and each other, and I have been told, “I love the way y’all are always talking each other up.”

VSU News: What went through your mind when you learned you had won this award?

Dr. Anne Price: I was honored to learn that I had received an ethics award, but I didn’t know who had nominated me. At the award ceremony I had a chance to hear one of the letters a colleague had written nominating me for the award. When I learned that I had been nominated for my service work coordinating our sociology programs, I felt very grateful to work with such supportive faculty. It was very special to hear that my colleagues recognized and appreciated my work to support our programs.

The Nominations

Dr. Price’s influence in the community has been evident from the outset of her career. With a background in sociology, Dr. Price has demonstrated her natural skills for community cohesiveness and higher education throughout her career. Joining the faculty and staff of Valdosta State University in 2013, she expanded her experience in working with classroom experiential learning and conducting outreach with stakeholder communities. In 2016, she started her current position as the sociology and anthropology coordinator for graduate studies and then agreed to step up once again and take on the role of coordinator for undergraduate studies in 2019.

Dr. Price is frequently putting others above herself, such as department and university needs as well as student needs. She is frequently seen in her office working with students and making accommodations to promote student success at both the micro and macro levels. Her willingness and leadership far exceed the standard, and you will never hear Dr. Price mention that the load is too much or too hard. She is a colleague that I deeply respect and value on our campus.

Dr. Price leverages both her energy and her communication skills to create environments of trust and collaboration and encourage innovation. Just this year, on top of her exemplary work and service on our campus, Dr. Price was elected vice president of the PTO for one of the city schools. She serves to help children and their parents navigate within the education system while building strong relationships with our community and the city school system. She has also been a champion of building bridges and connections between our campus and the greater Valdosta area. I cannot think of finer recipient of the Blazer Creed Award for Citizenship than Dr. Anne Price. She makes our campus shine by her deep commitment to community engagement.

***

When I think of the employment of citizenship according to the Blazer Creed, Dr. Anne Price stands above all the rest. She exemplifies what it means to be a good university citizen. She has been the coordinator for the graduate program for five-plus years, and she has coupled that with the undergrad coordinator for three years. Thus, she has been serving as both coordinators for some time, which is certainly a large task in normal circumstances, but took on an even larger time commitment during the pandemic. She met the challenges with a smile and a positive attitude. A good coordinator is vital to a healthy department, and during her time in this role, she was able to oversee growth in our major enrollment and the development of our successful 4+1 master’s program. She has overseen graduate research projects and saw several of the students she mentored win awards at the research symposium in 2020. Much of the work she does for our department flies under the radar, and she never seeks recognition or promotes herself. She is the model of citizenship as these tasks, to her, are part of being a good steward for our program. She is an exemplary citizen even when no one else is looking.

Anne is a role model to her students, as she provides excellent teaching and goes about her work the right way. She is cheerful, supportive, empathetic, gracious, and diligent. She is also a role model to junior faculty like myself and always willing to help mentor and guide me as a young professor. She doesn’t just speak of change and social justice; she shows it daily in her dedication to our students and addressing social inequalities. Specifically, her applied sociology course focuses on community betterment by addressing issues related to food access and walkable communities. Gandhi said that to make the world more just we should be the change we wish to see in the world. Anne Price conducts herself in this manner, and this quality is recognized by all who interact with her.

Anne interacts and engages will all members of the campus community equally. She is respectful, courteous, and kind to all Blazers from our dean to our custodian, from our first-year students to our finishing master students. Her door is always open, she will never turn down an opportunity to help her students or colleagues, and she provides guidance and mentorship to junior faculty like myself.  

As a former winner of the Blazer Creed Award for Citizenship, I believe Dr. Anne Price really should be recognized. Quite frankly, while I aim to always conduct myself with the highest level of citizenship on campus, my model is Dr. Price. As a society we need to recognize the people doing great work who do not tend to recognize/promote themselves. Dr. Price is one of the humblest and gracious people I have ever met, and I cannot imagine someone who exemplifies the traits of a good community citizen more than Dr. Price.

BLAZER CREED AWARD FOR INTEGRITY
Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes, professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

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. 

The Nominations

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.  

BLAZER CREED AWARD FOR CIVILITY
Sandra Y.G. Jones, director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion

VSU News: Who nominated you for this award?

Sandra Y.G. Jones: I believe a colleague nominated me.

VSU News: Why does practicing civility matter to you?

Sandra Y.G. Jones: I believe civility is one of the most basic reasonable services of humanity. It cost nothing, but the unpretentious consideration of others we encounter and engage can mean a great deal; especially during the times we are all currently facing.

VSU News: What went through your mind when you learned you had won this award?

Sandra Y.G. Jones: I was completely surprised. I practice civility because it is not only the right thing to do, but it’s part of who I am. The award acknowledges, not only the work I put in as a professional, but the daily, consistent work to simply be a good person has been notices. That’s pretty special to me.

The Nominations

I have had the honor of working closely with Ms. Sandra for over two years now as a member of FIERCE women mentorship program. I have listened to her educate us on how to navigate our personal and professional lives and provide us with the necessary tools to do so. She also makes it clear that she is 100 percent available to help us succeed as black women, diverse women, students, and professionals. She has also provided us with firsthand experiences of how she has handled disagreements in and out of the workplace while continuing to be professional and respectful of the other parties involved. The mission statement she drills in us in our mentorship program is ‘FIERCE seeks to provide personal, academic, cultural, social, professional, and leadership development to undergraduate females at VSU, to positively impact academic success, increase retention and develop effective campus community leaders.’

***

When thinking of Sandra Y.G. Jones and looking at the term civility, I cannot think of another staff member at VSU that fits the description better than her. Sandra recognizes that each Blazer is unique in their own right and does not attempt to require they fit in a box. Instead, she goes out of her way to let each Blazer know that they are unique and deserve respect. She does so by developing and implementing programming that is comprehensive in scope.

The Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion’s mission is to educate on diversity, enhance equity, and embrace inclusivity, and the programming developed and led by Sandra encompasses all components within the mission. Through programs such as Brave Space Dialogues, Diversity Dinners of Hope, Blaze the Ballot, Pink Out Festival, FIERCE, MOCHA, and recognizing important days such as Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, Bisexuality Day, Pride Month, International Women’s Day, and Indigenous Peoples Day, to name a few, Sandra intentionally brings awareness to marginalized populations and hot-button topics and always ensures that there is an educational component in each event. She embodies servanthood and selflessness while being an advocate for everyone.

One remarkable quality that I find impressive in Sandra is that she can hear a person without making a preconceived judgment. She is a professional at active listening and can help you express yourself even when you have trouble finding the correct words to use. She is always open to answering any questions, and if she does not have an answer, she is skilled at professionally handing you to another person that can help. I have the privilege of being a colleague to Sandra and have collaborated with her office on various programs. It is evident that she cares for every student and wants them all to feel valued and loved. Sandra does not require a spotlight; she does not demand attention for what she does.

BLAZER CREED AWARD FOR CIVILITY
Dr. Zduy Chu, deputy chief officer for the Division of Student Affairs

VSU News: Who nominated you for this award?

Dr. Zduy Chu: Sandra Jones, director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion

VSU News: Why does practicing civility matter to you?

Dr. Zduy Chu: To me, civility means seeking to understand before being understood. We all come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences. This doesn’t make us good or bad, right or wrong; it’s just the lens through which we see the world. In the end though, you think about your core values and try to see those values in everything that you do. For me, it’s about understanding that as we are interacting with others, we are not walking a mile in their shoes, but instead we are walking beside them in their journey to understand what they are seeing and how they are impacted by what’s going on around them. Civility matters because deep down we all want to be respected, feel like we belong, and have value. 

VSU News: What went through your mind when you learned you had won this award?

Dr. Zduy Chu: I was honestly shocked, not because I think that I don’t practice civility but more so because I do things without a desire to be recognized. It was a welcomed surprise to see that how I live my life and how I interact with others is seen as civil and helping others become part of a larger community, like they belong.  I am proud and grateful to have received the award. 

The Nomination

If there is anyone who shows courtesy and compassion as well as respect for the dignity of every human being, it is Dr. Zduy Chu. I have engaged Zduy in various capacities. When he arrived at VSU, I was coordinator and later became his colleague as a director in Student Affairs. Zduy treated me with the same level of respect and dignity as a coordinator that he did as a director. The title did not matter. He intentionally works to deal with everyone from a place of respect and compassion. He puts others first, sometimes to his detriment. Zduy has a strong conviction for doing what is right and working for what is best for our students and our university. I appreciate him as both a colleague and friend.

BLAZER CREED AWARD FOR CITIZENSHIP AND INTEGRITY
Emily Flowers, student in the Department of Leadership, Technology, and Workforce Development

VSU News: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Emily Flowers: I am from Moultrie, Georgia, and I anticipate graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Office Administration and Technology in 2025.

VSU News: Who nominated you for this award?

Emily Flowers: My mother and two of my sisters.

VSU News: What does being a good citizen and having integrity mean to you?

Emily Flowers: Being a good citizen and having integrity is helping your community in any way you can to improve the world, but also being true to yourself. You must be honest with yourself and others to gain trust. You can make a difference if you believe in yourself, which could benefit your community.

VSU News: What went through your mind when you learned you had won this award?

Emily Flowers: When I received the email that I won, I was shocked. My family did not inform me that they submitted me as a candidate. I was extremely excited and thankful to be receiving this.

The Nominations

Emily Flowers simply loves being a student at Valdosta State University. She is committed to being successful in her studies and enjoys the process of learning. She strives to be involved in as many activities as possible around the campus. Emily joined the First-Year Learning Community and has made new friends on campus. Emily and one new friend from Thomasville have just realized that they have the same birthday, Nov. 8. Emily is also involved in study groups to further her understanding of subjects and professors. Emily is a concerned and devoted citizen of Valdosta State University.

I want to nominate Emily Flowers for the Blazer Creed Award for Citizenship. She is concerned with the well being of our community by helping with my health needs. She has given me my insulin and also my Phenergan injections for nausea. Also, she assists in raising and entertaining her three young nieces, ages 7, 9, and 10. She has taken them to an activity at VSU. Also, Emily started her own small business this past summer called Emily’s Sweet Treats. She made very decorative chocolate-covered strawberries, pretzels, and chocolate squares. She had a large community outreach with her business. She has her business on hold now to achieve her goals at VSU. Thank you for considering Emily Flowers for this award.

This young lady dog/house sits for my family and I while we are out of town and has done so for years now. Emily has shown an immense amount of integrity and responsibility by doing this. Emily's honest characteristics allow us to trust her with our most beloved prized possessions time and time again.

Emily has volunteered her time to help clean and organize the optometry office where I oversee daily relations as the office manager. She helps with the delivery of donated lenses to the local Lions Club in our area. It is a joy to see such a fine young lady do work for others.

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