How long have you worked at Buffalo State College and if applicable what other areas have you worked/positions have you served in at Buffalo State College?
I have worked at SUNY Buffalo State College since 2008. I am an alumnus of Buffalo State College where I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Special Education. I went on to receive my Doctorate in Special Education with a concentration in multicultural education from Buffalo State’s Joint Program with the University of Buffalo. I am an Associate Professor in the Exceptional Education Department where I served as the Director of the Bilingual Special Education Program for several years. I currently serve as the Director of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program.
What motivates you to provide excellent services for your colleagues, students, and supervisor?
As a former student in the Exceptional Education Department, I received an outstanding education from professors who understood the difference between teaching and instructing. The experience and education I received motivates me to work even harder for the things I desire now. I want my colleagues, students, and supervisor to feel that they are receiving all of me. On a day to day basis, I strive to complete my work with integrity and am committed to the work I do. I understand the importance of molding my students into magnificent educators and allowing them to feel that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I see my colleagues, students, and supervisor as family, and I aspire every day to ensure that they know they can count on me.
They make me feel whole and even after a busy day, I cannot wait to be with them again. I can honestly say that I enjoy this job so much, I would do it for free, but don’t tell them that!
What personal philosophy about working with others guides your day-to-day work?
When I think about my personal philosophy for both work and life, I am led by a quote by Denzel Washington. He said, “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back”. Whether I am at work or out in the community, I believe that everyone deserves respect. I feel that this world would be a better place if we simply listen. I am honored every day to have colleagues who share in my joys and successes, as well as, in my hardships. Working with colleagues who respect, listen, and enjoy teamwork has been the greatest experience for me. My colleagues and I have a “Making a Difference Approach” and that is why we work so well together.
What do you do when you are not working?
When I am not working, and that is a rare occasion, I really enjoy spending time at home and I love reading. I am truly a homebody, and love to be home with my husband watching college football. Family and faith are very important to me. I try to enjoy every second I get to be with my oldest son Vincent and every opportunity I get to talk to my youngest son Giuliano, who is in the Air Force and currently deployed in Jordan.
Sisi is a cornerstone of the overall positive culture in the Exceptional Education Department. In addition to being the longtime coordinator of our Sunshine Club, which collects voluntary donations from faculty to send flowers, cards, and gifts to colleagues who are ill or have experienced a loss/hardship, she represents the campus in myriad other ways. She has always attended every campus event (open houses, orientations, teacher tailgates, and other recruitment & student events). As a longtime member and former chairperson of the Awards committee, she has been instrumental in planning and overseeing the annual Awards Ceremony in the Social Hall. Sisi maintains personal relationships with longtime donors and their families and will often “check in” with them just to say hello and see how they are doing. She does this because she genuinely cares, not because she has to or is prompted to do so. Sisi also does this with former students, and professor emeriti. She has also represented BSC well in the statewide community by her role as past president of the New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABA).
My nickname for Sisi is “Sunshine Express”, not only because of her official role as leader of the department’s Sunshine Club, but also because of her seemingly endless effervescence. It is authentic and often seems to grace others at a time when it is most needed. While she is a serious, bright, and hard-working colleague, she also has a ready smile, quick laugh, and positive outlook, and a can-do attitude. The is her default demeanor with both students and fellow colleagues. This was never more appreciated than during the past year. She was one of the few faculty members not to complain about the many changes and extra work we were being asked to do, and was among the first to ask me as department chair, “what can I do to help?” Sisi is always the first person in the room to raise her hand and volunteer to take on extra work, help others in need, and lift up those who have fallen. She also engages in numerous random acts of kindness on a regular basis. One will often find a small anonymous gift of chocolate or happy stickers in their mailbox and will find out through subtle detective work it was her. Our office staff arrived to work one Monday morning to find the antiquated & barely functioning microwave and refrigerator in our office had been replaced by shiny new versions over the weekend. Another random act of kindness, engaged in just to be thoughtful and to do what she sees as her part in fostering a positive work environment. I could go on and on with listing examples of all that she does to lift people’s spirits and engender the type of workplace where you feel lucky to be a part of it each day.
Sisi has built her career on successful collaborations with others. In addition to directing the college’s TESOL program, she is an integral part of the department’s recruitment task force, which is a voluntary position in addition to other department committee assignments. She and other colleagues have volunteered to go into local schools to talk to teachers about opportunities to study special education, TESOL, and bilingual education at BSC.
The wellbeing and success of students is always her primary focus and concern. In 2013, Sisi was awarded the President’s Medal for Excellence in Academic Advisement, and her dedication to high quality and meaningful advisement has only increased since then. In Summer 2020 she suggested and coordinated an initiative to create and deliver welcome baskets full of BSC and EXE swag to all incoming freshmen majors. Sisi purchased all of the materials for the baskets, had welcome posters made, and recruited a couple of colleagues to put them together and organized a delivery crew. She does things like this all of the time, and never seeks recognition or compensation. In fall ’20, she had a student/advisee who was struggling in her courses because her computer wasn’t working and she couldn’t access any of her coursework. She loaned her an old (personal) laptop and worked with the student & her instructors to help her get caught up & back on track. Without her support and guidance, this student likely would have failed her courses. She also quietly purchases textbooks for students every semester for students who cannot afford them (she has done this for years, we only find out about it when students share). When the pandemic first began to affect us, she was the first to find free wifi for students not on campus through Spectrum. Her course and advisement evaluations consistently indicate just how supported students feel by her. Sisi is the go-to professor for student recommendation letters, and she spends a great deal of time each semester writing thorough and individualized reference letters for current and former students.
When a positive attitude is combined with flexibility and adaptability, the result is progress and advantageous transformation. One example of how Sisi embraces change is how well she adapted to the Spring ’20 semester shift to remote learning. She single-handedly revised our department’s Blackboard sites for undergraduate and graduate students to make the sites much easier for students to navigate. In this revamp (which she volunteered to do), she included several links for series and supports that student may especially need now during COVID. This was done while also transforming her own courses. Although Sisi is very tech savvy, she usually teaches her classes in a traditional face to face on campus format. Not only did she flip her courses to remote in the short time period in which we were all asked to do so, but also assisted several of her colleagues who were struggling with the transition. As I stated earlier, she is the type of person who always asks, “how can I help?” and is the first in the room to raise her hand to volunteer to help solve a problem, whether it's in the department, the SOE, or the entire campus. I cannot think of a more Caring Bengal than her and it is an honor to nominate her for this award if only to let others know of her many acts of selflessness.
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