April 11, 2022

Sandra M. Gonzales named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year

Sandra M. Gonzales, associate professor in Wayne State University's College of Education, is known for her engagement in educational access initiatives on campus and beyond.

Sandra M. Gonzales, associate professor of bilingual/bicultural education at Wayne State University, has been honored as one of three recipients of the Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year award, which recognizes the outstanding contributions and dedication exhibited by faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities to the education of undergraduate students.

The Academic Affairs Officers committee of the Michigan Association of State Universities will celebrate the nominees and recipients of this annual award April 15, 2022, during a luncheon at the Lansing Center. The other two winners are Central Michigan University Professor Carl Lee and Michigan State University Associate Professor Vashti Sawtelle.


“Professor Gonzales is among the award nominees who continue to bring new scholarship and innovation in teaching and learning to Michigan’s public universities,” said Dr. Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “These professors have the highest dedication to their students, ensuring that they are well-prepared to make a meaningful impact in their career and in their communities.”

Gonzales has worked at Wayne State since 2011. Her research interests include the intersection of bilingual/bicultural and family and community education with Indigenous and Latino studies, and she’s known for her engagement in educational access initiatives on campus and beyond.

Her pedagogical style flips the traditional teacher-as-expert model, allowing students to center their own cultural experiences for academic success. When her students become certified teachers themselves, they then take this pedagogical style and create their own culturally and linguistically responsive classrooms that center on their students’ strengths and diversity. Gonzales has developed and revamped courses to align with certification and teacher preparation standards. She has also led summer study abroad opportunities in Spain and global virtual learning initiatives in Italy and the United Arab Emirates. She is a highly productive scholar, advisor and mentor.

Committed to Latinx and first-generation student advancement, Gonzales coordinates the Native Development Network and Learning Community, a student success initiative for Native American students and allies. She provides faculty-mentored research experiences for Learning Community undergraduates who present annually at national conferences. She is also the faculty advisor for the Native American Student Organization, where she works with students to develop campus programming that inspires engagement and interest in issues of significance to the Native American community.


“As a campus leader, Dr. Gonzales is committed to creating inclusive learning experiences and increasing student success at Wayne State University,” said Mark Kornbluh, Wayne State University provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Her students note a strong sense of belonging and inclusivity in her classroom and speak of her ability to model authenticity and caring while uplifting student voices. Wayne State is extremely fortunate to count Dr. Sandra M. Gonzales among our faculty.”

Gonzales is a 2021 recipient of WSU’s highest teaching honor, the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2017, she received the Kathleen Reilly Koory Endowed Faculty Development Award, and in 2016 was recognized with the Wayne State University College of Education Scholarship Award. In 2014, Eastern Michigan University created the Sandra M. Gonzales Trailblazer Award in her honor, and she was the first recipient.

Gonzales has served on the Michigan Department of Education English Learners Advisory Committee and the Detroit Latino Agenda Education Committee. She has been awarded several federal grants, including a five-year, $1.3 million Upward Bound pre-college program grant from the U.S. Department of Education for low-income, first-generation college students from Detroit, along with a Department of Defense grant to boost STEM career engagement in underrepresented communities.

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