On a perfect summer evening, Fordham Graduate School of Education administrators, faculty, alumni, friends and family gathered for the annual GSE Alumni Reunion and Block Party held June 9th on the Plaza at Lincoln Center. The GSE also uses this occasion to recognize an outstanding alum each year.
After being entertained by an upbeat Cuban band, José Luis Alvarado, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school of education and Fordham’s first Latino dean, took to the podium to present this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Aramina Vega Ferrer, Ph.D., GSE ‘09, in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the field of education and the community. Ferrer currently serves as a New York State Regent representing Bronx County’s 12th Judicial District.
“It is a distinct honor and privilege to present this award to Dr. Aramina Vega Ferrer. She is a leader who has dedicated her career to supporting culturally and linguistically diverse parents, students, and communities. She is the embodiment of what it means to be a Fordham GSE graduate. As a first-generation college student and former English language learner, she has lived experiences that give her a deep understanding of the transformational power of education to make a more just world. She is making the world a better place one student at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time. Most importantly, I am proud to add the GSE’s Lifetime Achievement Award to all the other distinguished awards she has received over the course of her career.”*
Addressing those gathered, Ferrer talked about her special decades-long relationship with Fordham University. She came to Fordham as a graduate student of educational leadership studies and later pursued doctoral studies in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction culminating in earning a Ph.D. in Language Literacy and Learning in 2009.
Ferrer talked about remaining connected to her longstanding Fordham mentors and friends, Ángela Reyes Carrasquillo and Theresa Cicchelli, now professors emeritae. These brilliant Fordham professors continued to guide and support her post-Fordham research in second language acquisition and learning, bilingualism, and multiculturalism, and she remains in touch with them today.
She discussed her upbringing as a child whose parents, Carmen Maria Rivera Bello de Vega and José Vega Vega, migrated to New York City, and she dedicated her dissertation to them. As children of land-owning farmers in Puerto Rico, her father had a second-grade education; her mother was allowed to finish fourth grade. Notwithstanding their modest formal education, Ferrer’s parents worked hard, sacrificed, and shared their rich understanding of the Spanish language and Puerto Rican culture with their children. Her parents’ life together has inspired her work in education and throughout her life.
Ferrer also remarked that her personal and professional experiences and understanding of how students learn and how teachers teach best is what she brings to the table as a member of the New York State Board of Regents.
“To my fellow alums of the GSE, Dean Alvarado, Associate Dean Rodriguez and faculty, thank you for bestowing on me this precious honor, and please consider me an ally, colleague, and friend on the New York State Board of Regents. There is much work we can do together to improve educational outcomes for students in New York State.”
In closing, Ferrer accepted the award both humbly and with great pride, and on behalf of all the students whose lives she has touched as a public school educator, their families, and the countless teachers with whom she has had the pleasure to work as co-learners and leaders. She also acknowledged her husband, Fernando Ferrer, for his unwavering belief in her and for championing her work at various stages of her professional career in education. Finally, she recognized and thanked her daughter and three grandsons.
Aramina Vega Ferrer’s complete acceptance speech can be read here.
To learn more about Aramina Vega Ferrer’s important work, click here.
*Aramina Vega Ferrer, Ph.D. has received numerous professional and civil awards across her storied career, including the Alumni Achievement Award from Lehman College, the Distinguished Educator Award from the New York City Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Educator of the Year Award for Creative Leadership and Vision in Education from the Association of Teachers of New York, and the Governor’s Outstanding Hispanic Women Achievers Award.