Samantha Vasquez: Social Justice in Higher Education Award

Samantha (Sam) Vasquez (she/her/ella) of Coachella, California is the 2024 recipient of the Social Justice in Higher Education Award from the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development’s graduate programs in higher education. This award is presented to a graduating student in the student development in higher education master’s program who has demonstrated deep and consistent commitment to understanding, analyzing, and advancing both theory and practice related to diversity, inclusivity, and social justice in higher education as evidenced by both academic and co-curricular pursuits and accomplishments during their graduate studies. Read a Q&A with Vasquez below.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?

A photo of Samantha Vasquez.
Photo courtesy Samantha Vasquez.

UMaine has been a transformative journey for me, starting with moving my life across the country then instilling confidence and readiness for my future in higher education through the hands-on opportunities and extremely supportive environment. 

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world? If so, tell us about it.

Engaging with diverse individuals at UMaine has broadened my perspective of the world. I’ve had the chance to engage with fellow students, faculty and staff which has helped me embrace varied perspectives and journeys.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better? If so, tell us about them.

Cam McDonnell has been my supervisor for the past two years and her unwavering support and guidance have significantly enriched my academic journey. Her approachability, empathy and insightful advice have been invaluable and reinforce my growth!

What advice do you have for incoming graduate students to help them get off to the best start academically?

Take the time to immerse yourself in the learning process. The initial adjustment may seem daunting, but reflection and appreciation of knowledge will lay a solid foundation for academic and professional excellence.

Why UMaine?

As a first-generation student, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to further my education! Besides the beautiful scenery, UMaine has a supportive community and a strong alumni network.

Favorite UMaine memory:

My favorite UMaine memories are the hockey games! With such a vibrant student presence, you can always count on the hockey games for some really great energy and excitement!

Special Thank You message:

To Victor, my family, mentors and faculty, I couldn’t have done it without your love, support and encouragement. This experience has provided me with invaluable growth opportunities, wonderful mentorship, cherished memories and a robust network!