|Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Ph.D.
Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award, 2014-2015
I am deeply honored to have been chosen as the 2014/2015 recipient of the Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award. The award is especially meaningful for me since my students nominated me. Their passion for learning makes my job exciting every semester. I love building their skills, mentoring them, and helping point their way toward meaningful careers.
I am fortunate to be the child of two first-generation college students, one of whom was an immigrant and the other the daughter of immigrants. My parents deeply appreciated the value of an education – not only for its potential for improving one’s status in life but also for the intrinsic joy of learning. They always encouraged my intellectual curiosity, and taught me that learning was a good in and of itself.
When I entered college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer or a journalist. But I was blessed to encounter smart, engaged professors, who ignited in me a love for research. I found that I loved learning and discussing the great ideas of the past with others. After graduating and spending a year abroad doing volunteer work, I pursued my doctorate in history at Stanford University. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, I began teaching at CSUSM in 1999. While I am an active scholar and have published books and articles on numerous topics, I get even greater satisfaction from a lively class session. I am passionate about teaching students about history and helping them better understand the world around them. I relish creating an environment where they feel comfortable with each other and can carry their discussions outside the classroom into new friendships.
One thing I learned in my undergraduate experience was not to be afraid of professors! By seeking them out in office hours, I deepened my knowledge and received essential mentor ship and professional advice. I also made lifelong friendships with fellow students. In addition, I encourage students to seek every possible opportunity outside the classroom to learn and to meet others! CSUSM hosts special lectures and performances throughout the semester. Even if no one can attend all of them, making sure to attend a few every semester is one secret to feeling energized and enlightened amidst the crush of homework and exams. You may also learn something that will change your life. College is a special time to learn new things, chart future directions (which can always change!), challenge yourself and build relationships with classmates and teachers alike.
In addition to my students, I am fortunate to have brilliant and engaged colleagues at CSUSM, who make my job a joy. I am very grateful to the Brakebill family for creating this award and for continuing to support quality education at CSUSM.
Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award, 2015-2016
It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
– Albus Dumbledore, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Do good anyway.
–Mother Teresa of Calcutta
I am deeply moved the by honor of being named the Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor for 2015-2016.
Entering college as a 17 year-old, first-generation freshman at CSU Long Beach, I would never have dreamed that I would someday find myself teaching in the CSU system. As I scooped ice cream at Thrifty Drug Store to pay for my college education, I tried to envision what path my life would take… and wondered whether a first-generation college student like me could possibly succeed. Thankfully, I had the good fortune of being mentored by two extraordinary professors from CSULB and UC Irvine who pushed me to perform to the very best of my ability, held me accountable for my actions, and set me on a path that would ultimately lead me to CSU San Marcos. Their unwavering commitment to their students, and their respect for students’ lives outside of the classroom, convinced me that I could achieve what I thought was impossible. Their actions taught me about the importance of faculty members in students’ pursuits of academic goals. It was because of their influence that I chose a career as a CSU Professor. This vocation has provided so many opportunities for which I am truly grateful, among them the chance to work with and support students in the CSU so that they too, can achieve their academic dreams.
To our CSUSM students, I offer this personal message: The role of faculty members in your education is invaluable. They will inspire and challenge you. At times, they will irritate you, perhaps because you will think they are asking too much. But their goal is to help you to find those qualities in yourself that will lead to your success. We all possess various abilities, however it is easy to get weighed down with doubts when faced with obstacles. This path will ask a lot of you, but you will always have the choice as to how you want to use your abilities… and it is your choices that will define who you are. My advice for you is that even when faced with significant challenges while chasing your dreams, “do good anyway.” Focus on both your values and your goals, and you will end up where you are meant to be. Your faculty will help you to get there.
Finally, no one among us succeeds without the love and support of important people in our lives. I wish to thank my husband and three sons who, through their words and deeds, show me, every day, what is truly important in life. I am indebted to my parents and eight siblings who established a solid foundation for working hard while maintaining a sense of humor. I am incredibly thankful for the support of my colleagues – the staff, faculty and administrators with whom I’ve worked. They have inspired me with the good works they perform every day. Lastly, I would like to thank the Brakebill family for establishing this award to acknowledge faculty contributions to students’ education. Their recognition validates the work of all of us and their support is greatly appreciated.