Rosalie Otero, a distinguished figure in the field of honors education and an influential voice in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), has been celebrated for her extensive work in the University Honors Program at the University of New Mexico and remarkable contributions to the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).
With over two decades of unwavering commitment, Otero has left an indelible mark on the academic landscape. The National Collegiate Honors Council will present Rosalie Otero with the NCHC’s 2023 Founders Award on Friday, Nov. 10, during the NCHC Awards Ceremony at the 2023 Annual Conference in Chicago.
The NCHC Founders Award was created in 2015 and is the most prestigious award bestowed by NCHC. The Founders Award serves to honor members who have been instrumental in the development and advancement of NCHC and its programs. In 1995, the Honors Program initiated a process for promotion and tenure of its full-time faculty. Otero was the first faculty member in both the UNM Honors Program and in honors programs across the country to be promoted.
Having served as the Director of the Honors Program at the University of New Mexico, Otero exemplified her dedication to fostering diversity on her home campus and subsequently transplanted this commitment into the fertile grounds of the NCHC.
“She has been one of the outstanding leaders in the national honors community in both intellectual and practical terms, and she is a true pioneer in bringing honors into the academic mainstream in terms of the tenure and promotion process,” from the nomination letter by Gary Bell, Ada Long, and Robert Spurrier.
During her tenure from 1991 to 1998, Otero held the position of chair of the Gender and Ethnicities Committee. Her willingness to assume leadership roles within the NCHC, including serving as president, was instrumental to all administrators, faculty, and students who benefited from her guidance. Otero's ability to extend a warm welcome in Spanish at various meetings added an inclusive touch to her leadership. During her tenure as president, NCHC established permanent headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“It has been my privilege and joy to have been involved in honors education for over 30 years. It has given me the opportunity to work with exceptional students, remarkable and talented colleagues, both in my own institution, across the country and internationally. I treasure the many friendships I have made over the years and am proud and delighted with the achievements of our alumni and gratified that I had a small role in their many accomplishments,” expressed Otero.
Furthermore, Otero continued her leadership within the NCHC as Co-Chair of the Assessment and Evaluation Committee, Chair or Co-Chair of the NCHC Finance Committee, a member of the Publications Board, Honors Semesters, and an editorial board member for the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council. Her role as a consultant to numerous programs and colleges including facilitating the creation of honors programs at various institutions including the first honors program in Mexico, along with her advocacy for multiperspectivism, further solidified her status as a prominent figure in the field.
“Rosalie Otero was a force of nature, constantly advocating for our students, keeping our curriculum fresh, and our programs constantly evolving and improving to meet our students' needs. She not only worked tirelessly to expand and advance the impact of our honors program at UNM, but she also was at the forefront of many changes to honors education nationally through NCHC,” said Leslie Donovan, professor, and interim dean UNM Honors College.
Otero’s published work is held in high regard in the national honors community for being insightful and well-supported. She collaborated with Bob Spurrier in writing the NCHC monograph titled, “Assessment and Evaluation of Honors Programs and Honors Colleges” as well as being co-developer and co-chair of Best Honors Administrative Practices workshops. Her contributions were not limited to academic circles; she made regular contributions to NCHC journals and presented at national and regional conferences. She also served as president of the Western Regional Honors Council and organized regional conferences in Albuquerque.
“The Honors College at UNM provides opportunities for intensive, interactive, interdisciplinary, and cross-cultural education that broaden student’s entire educational experience from all majors across campus. The College offers the advantages of a small college with the opportunities of a large research university. It fosters a community of academic excellence, connects students with premier faculty, and promotes civic engagement and leadership opportunities,” said Otero.
During her tenure as Director of the UNM Honors Program, Otero enhanced and strengthened the curriculum by adding, for example more subject matter to first-year courses and providing seniors with more options including research theses, a colloquium with a service-learning project, and student teaching. When she was appointed director of the program, there were only part-time instructors. She worked tirelessly to add full-time faculty, first as instructors and later as tenured faculty members to the program. In addition, she recruited interesting, unique visiting scholars to provide students with exceptional educational opportunities.
When asked about the advice given to a potential honors college student Otero said, “I would tell potential students that if they are intellectually curious, creative, open to new ideas, have a passion for learning, and ambition they should join the Honors College. The Honors College will help honors students continue to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They will learn the value of approaching problems holistically and thoughtfully, communicating effectively and with purpose, and the importance of developing a professional work ethic. Students participate in a variety of cultural engagement opportunities, allowing them to understand and value the diverse populations and perspectives in their local communities. These experiences prepare them to contribute not only to their local communities as active, engaged citizens but also to the missions of employers who see these skills as imperative in an ever-changing marketplace.”
Under Otero's guidance as director, the UNM’s honors program's literary journal, Scribendi became a regular course, and with collaboration with the Western Regional Honors Council included submissions from the Western region and later from NCHC students. It remains a highly regarded periodical to which honors students can contribute. Otero’s publications have consistently demonstrated remarkable perceptiveness, clarity, and usefulness. These qualities were also evident in her extensive array of reviews, explanations, bibliographical projects, short stories, cultural analyses, and her substantial work with organizations such as the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities.
Otero's diverse scholarly interests have significantly contributed to the varied perspectives she brought to the NCHC and to numerous academic and administrative projects.
“Those of us who worked with and learned from Rosalie are thrilled that NCHC has honored her with this award. She changed the world for honors education, developed UNM’s program into one of the most influential and respected honors programs in the nation, and inspired so many of us who worked with her to be the best teachers and scholars we could be. I, for one, most certainly attribute most everything I have become or achieved in my career to what I learned from Rosalie,” said Donovan.
Her work has played a pivotal role in nurturing the wide spectrum of perspectives and methodologies that are fundamental to academia. Otero's lifelong dedication to the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusion in honors education and her invaluable contributions to the University of New Mexico and the National Collegiate Honors Council make her a distinguished figure in the academic community. Her legacy will continue to inspire and shape the future of honors education and the pursuit of DEI.