Dr Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila Receives CEU’s 2023 European Award for Excellence in Teaching
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CEU Year Opening Ceremony 2023, Prof Eva Fodor and Dr Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila, Image credit CEU Daniel Vegel.
September 12, 2023, Vienna – Central European University (CEU) has awarded the twelfth annual European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities to Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila, Assistant Professor in Social Justice and Director of Teaching and Learning in the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, at University College Dublin in Ireland. Vasquez del Aguila is a recognized expert in making education more inclusive, fostering community, and enabling students to contribute their knowledge and experiences in the collective learning process. Furthermore, he is known for identifying and challenging norms and other barriers that prevent students from fully participating in higher education.
Administered by CEU’s Yehuda Elkana Center for Teaching, Learning, and Higher Education Research, the prestigious Diener Prize is made possible by a generous gift from Steven and Linda Diener, in memory of Ilona Diener. CEU Pro-Rector for Teaching and Learning, Professor Eva Fodor presented the award to Vasquez del Aguila on September 11 at the university’s year opening ceremony.
“I am so happy to receive this award that presents an honor and a responsibility. I believe that it is fundamental to conceive of our students as partners in the process of teaching and learning and to promote kindness, empathy and compassion as skills embedded in our educational practices,” said Dr Vasquez del Aguila. “I am committed to providing students with an inclusive space to adapt the learning materials to their needs and customize their responses based on their individual backgrounds. In this journey, it is pivotal that students learn and connect as part of a “community of researchers.”
A scholar from the Global South, Vasquez del Aguila has more than 20 years of teaching and research experience in Latin America, the United States, the Philippines and Ireland. His teaching draws on social movement pedagogies – such as feminist/LGBTQ+ movements, liberation pedagogy and decoloniality – that seek to empower students and promote critical and reflective thinking by addressing the lack of diversity, omissions, hidden curriculums and “unconscious bias” of ethnocentric curriculums.
“The selection committee of the European Teaching Award was deeply impressed by Vasquez del Aguila's multifaceted and often innovative approaches to inclusive education,” said Michael Kozakowski, Director of CEU’s Yehuda Elkana Center for Teaching, Learning, and Higher Education Research. “In reviewing the materials he created over more than a decade, and reading the testimonials of students and colleagues, it is clear that Vasquez del Aguila brings not just a long-term commitment to these issues but makes a difference by bringing together research and teaching, students and faculty. He creates different types of educational spaces, and in so doing, enables individuals traditionally marginalized from education to participate in it more fully.”
As part of Vasquez del Aguila’s work on the concept of intersectionality, he created “The Roulette of Identities”. This workshop template addresses the impact of stigma and discrimination and raises awareness of diversity and equality. Recognized by University College Dublin in 2009 with its workshop award, it has been used in multiple settings, including for discussing LGBTQ+ issues among police officers.
In addressing decoloniality in education, his activities continue to promote a cultural practice that recognizes plurality in the production of knowledge. Vasquez del Aguila has created an interactive online tool for student-directed learning, titled “Ten Destination Roadmap to a Journey of Discovery”. It provides students with an inclusive platform that fosters individual and group learning activities online, in-person, and in blended environments. The toolkit has been published as part of an edited collection on teaching and learning (UCD 2022), and some of its components have been implemented by colleagues at UCD.
Emphasizing the value of Vasquez del Aguila’s work, Professor Colin Scott, College Principal of Social Sciences and Law, said: “He is a highly engaged and successful scholar and teacher in the social sciences at University College Dublin. His innovations and achievements have been recognized in UCD with both a College Teaching and Learning Award and a University Teaching and Learning Award. We place a very high value on innovative and inclusive learning, linked to research at UCD, nurturing and recognizing faculty for their contributions to this mission and with very considerable success in supporting student learning. Even in this very fruitful environment Dr. Vasquez del Aguila has proved himself as someone who is outstanding as a teacher and against the criteria of the Award. He is also an outstanding colleague contributing to university values and life more broadly.”
Dr Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila, Image credit CEU Daniel Vegel.