The stars are still there, even when the sun is out

Melissa K. Downes and Jeanne M. Slattery

One thing about university faculty: we can be blind. And stupid.

Sandra Trejos. By permission.

Sandra Trejos. By permission.

Sandra Trejos (Economics) was recently named Outstanding Latina Faculty Member in Higher Education: Service Teaching in Higher Education by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE). Sandra was nominated by Jim Pesek, her former dean, and honored at AAHHE’s annual conference in Costa Mesa, CA, in March.

We’ve known Sandra for 10 years, seen her dedicated and enthusiastic work for her students, department, university, community, and family. We’ve seen her teach with passion, aiming to make difficult economic ideas accessible to all. We’ve been at Scholar Athletes Luncheons, where numerous students raved, describing the mentoring she tirelessly offered. We’ve listened as they described small gestures of kindness that we had never thought of (and wish we had).

Sandra entered the field of Economics not to promote first-world economic growth but “from a desire to have an educated participation in the fight against poverty, income equality, ignorance and all associated factors that are spread across the Earth” (Bates, 2014). This is an inspiring sentiment, one that makes us examine our own values and actions.

We didn’t send Sandra notes of congratulation. We thought of doing so, but got distracted and busy. We’re sure that we can identify other excuses, but they are just that, excuses. More broadly, we faculty aren’t always very good at supporting each other, at acknowledging the good things our colleagues are doing. We’re trying to counter that here.

We tend to think of our jobs (on the good days) as inherently rewarding. For those of us in love with teaching, we focus on our teaching, our students, our own successes (and failures), and feel that our jobs are their own rewards (e.g., Tokamitsu, 2014). In hard times, on bad days, the job is a job, a grind, and we groan and roll our eyes with the best at them. Either way, it is too easy to forget that we are a part of a community of teachers, scholars, and colleagues, and that all of usespecially in really hard times, when our lives, our loves, and our livelihoods are under attackneed to celebrate each other and our good work. Just because we love what we do doesn’t mean that we should toil on unrewarded in the dark.

Even as we talked about her award, Sandra observed, “the stars are still there, even when the sun is shining.” Hand in Hand is one place we hope to celebrate our community and colleagues, but this particular blog serves as a reminder that all of us need to be appreciated and all of us need to appreciate each other, especially in these dark days.


Bates, A. (2014, March 20). Trejos named outstanding Latina Faculty member. Clarion Call. Retrieved from

Tokamitsu, M. (2014, Winter). In the name of love. Jacobin. Retrieved from

Melissa K. Downes is an associate professor of English at Clarion University. She loves teaching.  She is interested in talking about how people teach and enjoys sharing how she teaches. She is an 18th century specialist, an Anglophile, a cat lover, and a poet. She can be contacted at

Jeanne Slattery is a professor of psychology at Clarion University. She is interested in thinking about what makes teaching and learning successful, and generally describes herself as a learner-centered teacher. She has written two books, Counseling diverse clients: Bringing context into therapy, and Empathic counseling: Meaning, context, ethics, and skill (with C. Park), and is writing Trauma, meaning, and spirituality: Research and clinical perspectives. She can be contacted at

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