Four alumni honored for contributions to education with Distinguished Alumni Award

Top left: Eddie R. Cole; top right: Frank D. Sanchez; bottom left: Paola Sztajn; bottom right: Rosemary Wolf Rehak

Four alumni from the IU School of Education have been awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2022.

“Simply put, these alumni have made education better through their many years in the field. From the classrooms where they’ve taught to the research and administration work they continue to do, I’m thrilled to celebrate with them,” Dean Anastasia Morrone said.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was founded in 1977 to recognize alumni who have enhanced the reputation of the School by distinguishing themselves in their careers and have made significant contributions to their community, state and nation through professional service, public service and civic activities. It is the highest honor bestowed upon alumni by the School of Education.

The alumni will be recognized with an awards presentation and dinner tomorrow.

This year’s awardees include:

Eddie R. Cole

Early Career Achievement Award

Eddie R. Cole (M.S.’09, Ph.D.’13)

Associate Professor
University of California, Los Angeles

Eddie R. Cole is an associate professor of higher education and history at UCLA and the author of The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom (Princeton University Press, 2020). Cole’s research focuses on college presidents’ historic role in shaping racial policies and practices both inside and outside of the educational sphere. As a scholar of higher education history, his approach in covering historical material and making connections to the current, critical context has garnered respect and praise from academics as well as intellectuals and activists beyond the academy. His finesse in using extensive, historical materials to address contemporary racial issues in higher education demonstrates the role of higher education in influencing all aspects of American life.

So far, Cole’s book, The Campus Color Line, has received five book awards and honors from various national professional associations for its quality and depth on the mid-twentieth century college presidency and the Black Freedom Movement. Additionally, his scholarship and public writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Chronicle of Higher Education. He has also been an expert commentator for BBC World News, MSNBC, and C-Span BookTV.

Cole has also been repeatedly recognized in Education Week as one of the 200 most influential scholars who have done the most to shape educational practice and policy. Cole received the 2018 Early Career Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He was also named a 2017 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which recognized him as a professor poised “to play a significant role in shaping American higher education.” Also notable is his selection for the 2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, one of the most prestigious awards for scholars working in critical areas of education research.

Cole has held research fellowships and grants from Princeton University and the University of Chicago, and he has been a Dean’s Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for his work on higher education history. He is also a senior fellow for the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy.

Looking ahead, he is the co-author of a forthcoming history of Omega Psi Phi – the first fraternity founded at a historically Black university (University of North Carolina Press, 2023), and he is currently writing a new history of American higher education to be published by Princeton University Press.

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Frank D. Sanchez

Excellence in Higher Education Award

Frank D. Sánchez (Ph.D.’03)

Senior Fellow
Interfaith America

In July 2016, Frank D. Sánchez became the tenth president of Rhode Island College, the state’s first public college founded in 1854. Sánchez oversaw the college with an annual operating budget that exceeds $130 million including the six academic schools of Business, Education, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies, Nursing and Social Work. The college supports approximately 7000 students on the 180-acre campus, in addition to delivery of instruction at the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Downtown Providence and the Workforce Development Hub in Central Falls.

During Sánchez’s nearly 6-year tenure, he was able to lead significant advancements for the college including: growing annual giving 200%, increasing the college endowment 65% to $43 million, while securing the largest and third largest gifts in the history of the college. Similarly, Sánchez led a renewed Building Futures campaign securing over $60 million in new capital construction funding and completing an additional $50 million to modernize several academic buildings. In addition to completing new branding, website and marketing campaigns, Sánchez advanced the college up national rankings including becoming ranked #2 in Social Mobility among all public universities in New England, (2021 U.S. News and World Report), breaking the Top 100 of all public and private Masters Universities in America (2021 Washington Monthly) and made the Top 10 Best Value Colleges among all medium and small institutions in New England (2021 Money Magazine). During his presidency, he also championed a significant increase in the racial and ethnic composition of the student body and the college’s senior leadership team.

A native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Sánchez holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration with a concentration in learning, cognition and instruction from Indiana University Bloomington, and an M.S. in student affairs and higher education from Colorado State University. He also holds a B.S. in psychology with minors in communications and Chicano studies from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. For over two and a half decades, Sánchez has advanced higher education policy, programs and services to improve college completion rates, address equity issues and modernize higher education systems. He has consulted, presented and spoken at numerous national forums focusing on broad issues impacting higher education institutions. He previously served as the vice chancellor for student affairs at The City University of New York, the nation’s largest urban public university serving over 500,000 students as well as the senior student affairs officer at both the University of Colorado Denver and Adams State University (formerly college). Sánchez is currently serving as a senior fellow at Interfaith America based in Chicago, Illinois.

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Paola Sztajn

Outstanding Alumni Award

Paola Sztajn (Ph.D.’95)

Dean, College of Education
North Carolina State University

Paola Sztajn currently serves as dean of the College of Education at North Carolina State University. She is a professor of mathematics education and, since her arrival at NC State in 2008, she has also served as interim associate vice provost for academic personnel and policy, provost fellow, associate dean for research and innovation, head of the department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences and faculty senator.

Sztajn is originally from Brazil and moved from Washington D.C. to Raleigh in 2008. Although she earned a B.S. and an M.S. degree in physics, once she completed school, she realized she was more interested in learning about kids’ experiences with elementary mathematics than electrons going through quantum barriers. So she started working with Ethnomathematics in 1987 and then working with professional development for mathematics teachers in 1989. Since then, she has been asking herself the same question: why do mathematics teachers do what they do, the way they do it, during mathematics lessons? This naïve question brought her to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics education at Indiana University. Since her doctoral graduation she has worked and lived in Rio, Brazil; Athens, Georgia; Falls Church, Virginia; and now Raleigh, NC.

Her research program focuses on elementary teachers’ professional development in mathematics. Her over 90 published papers have appeared in journals such as the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Researcher, Journal of Teacher Education, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Teaching and Teacher Education, and Teaching Children Mathematics. She authored chapters for different handbooks in mathematics education, an edited book with Teachers College Press and an authored book for practitioners with Corwin Press.

Sztajn has had continuous research funding for over 20 years and has been the principal investigator on projects totaling over $27M. She was a program officer at the National Science Foundation for two terms, member of the editorial board for the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, chair for the Special Interest Group-Research in Mathematics Education from the American Educational Research Association, and vice president for advocacy, equity and research for the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.

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Rosemary Wolf Rehak

Excellence in Pre-K–12 Education Award

Rosemary Wolf Rehak (M.S.’77, Ed.D.’86)

School Administrator, retired
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation

Rosemary Wolf Rehak was lucky enough to be born into a family with two parents who valued education and made sure that she, along with her three sisters, received every advantage that education brings. When she began working in the Upward Bound Program at St. Mary’s College the summer of her sophomore year, she began to understand the true gift her parents had given her. The realization that not every child has parents who value and provide excellent educational opportunities began her lifelong mission to create equitable educational opportunities for as many students as possible.

She began this mission as an English teacher at Washington High School in South Bend, Indiana, and while she loved teaching some of the great novels to gifted students, she also learned from the opportunity to teach students who had not mastered the basics of reading. As her understanding of the educational system grew, so did her desire to help students in different ways. She obtained her M.S. in guidance and counseling from IUSB and became a guidance counselor at Washington High School. That began her connection with the Indiana University Groups Program. She became a Recommender, providing access to IU for diverse and first-generation college students.

Several years later, she realized that impacting education in a broader way meant a move to administration. Rehak enrolled in the IU School of Education’s doctoral program where she learned from excellent scholars and practitioners and developed lifelong collegial friendships. Her first administrative position was as dean of students at Bloomington High School South, followed by a central office position in curriculum then a move to assistant superintendent for human resources in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, a district with over 10,000 students in Columbus, Indiana. While continuing her work in HR, she found herself serving as interim superintendent for BCSC, where she met the challenge of trying to keep peace in a disparate board while also fostering growth for staff and students.

The desire to continue to learn and grow led her to an educational experience outside of the expected structure of K-12 education. She took advantage of the opportunity to become an educational programmer for CSO Architects in Indianapolis and found a new passion for creating environments that enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of learning. The opportunity to work with gifted architects who truly knew how to listen to educators resulted in a fitting capstone to her educational career. The design of a model New Tech School environment challenged the traditional concept of a school building and created new opportunities for both teachers and students.

This award is both unexpected and humbling. It provided a unique opportunity to think of all the successes with a smile and recognize the failures – with a hope that the future generations of teachers, with the assistance and guidance of mentors at places like the IU School of Education, will provide greater access and success for students.

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