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Christina Garcia Named Nancy McNeir Ring Award Winner

by Joe Barker on 11/23/2021

Christina Garcia, Ph.D., assistant professor of Spanish, is the 2021 recipient of the Nancy McNeir Ring Award — SLU's highest honor for teaching.

Christina Garcia
Christina Garcia, Ph.D., assistant professor of Spanish. SLU photo.

The Nancy McNeir Ring Award originally was established in 1966 by SLU’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu, the national Jesuit honor society, to acknowledge faculty members who display special dedication to students. The award is SLU’s only University-wide teaching award.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this award, particularly knowing the caliber of teaching that goes on at SLU,” Garcia said. “This award in particular means a lot to me because it is ultimately the students who decide the recipient of the award.”

Garcia joined SLU at the start of the Fall 2015 semester. She is currently teaching upper level classes in Spanish Pronunciation and Spanish for the Health Professions. 

“Spanish Pronunciation introduces students to phonetics, a subfield of linguistics, so that they can analyze the differences between English and Spanish sounds and use this knowledge to improve their Spanish pronunciation,” Garcia said. “I first fell in love with phonetics, which is one of my research areas, in a very similar class, so it is one of my favorite things to teach.”

Spanish for the Health Professions is a course for students who are majoring or minoring in Spanish and a health-related field. Students study the cultural aspects of healthcare and some of the obstacles that the Spanish-speaking community faces in accessing healthcare in St. Louis. Garcia said the class is a community-engaged course in which the students work directly with a local immigrant-serving organization for their service-learning project. 

Garcia has a passion for teaching students.

“At the end of the day, my potential impact on students is what is most important to me and fuels and motivates me every day, and I feel extremely fortunate to work with such thoughtful and dedicated students,” she said. “Of course, I want them to fall in love with Spanish and commit to being lifelong bilinguals, but even more importantly I want them to be individuals who care about others and are deeply invested in the community. If I can emulate this in the way that I show care and concern for my students, then in my mind I have succeeded.”

The Nancy McNeir Ring award was awarded annually from 1966-2008, and was re-established in 2016. This award was named in honor of Nancy McNeir Ring, the University’s first dean of women, because of her devotion to the welfare of students. In keeping with tradition, Alpha Sigma Nu students review nominations and select the recipient each year.

Each school/college/center may nominate up to two faculty members for this award. The award carries with it $2,500 in professional development funds and is presented on stage at the December commencement ceremony, where the recipient presents the commencement address.

Saint Louis University’s Midyear Commencement will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18, in Chaifetz Arena.

Garcia was a unanimous selection by the committee. In their confirmation letter to Garcia, the committee wrote she was someone “who seemed to truly go above and beyond such that they fit the description of having a ‘special dedication to students.’” She was cited as being a valued mentor who assists students both in and out of the classroom. The letter called her a “role model for those lucky enough to be in her classes.” 

“In thinking what it means to go above and beyond or show a ‘special dedication to students,’ I cannot help but think about all the amazing educators I have had in my life who have shaped me into the professional and person I am today,” Garcia said. “Academia can be a cutthroat, highly competitive environment and there were times when I was not fully convinced it was the right place for me, but it was my professors and mentors who inspired me to continue by showing me extraordinary care and dedication throughout my academic journey. I see myself as paying forward their investment in me, and I can only hope that my students will carry on this same devotion to others in their future careers and lives.”

Garcia expressed gratitude for the support she has received from her colleagues and the community. 

“The support and encouragement of my department has allowed me to continue developing professionally, in turn allowing me to better serve my students,” she said. “I also could not do this work without the community partners who have graciously agreed to work alongside my students and are a big part of their discovery about what it means to show dedication to others.”