The Central Florida Women’s Resource Center honored UCF associate professor Maria Santana on Tuesday for her efforts to make a difference in women’s issues and in the community.
Surrounded by her colleagues at the Orlando Museum of Art, Santana, director of women’s studies at UCF, received a Summit Award during the organization’s 29th annual event. The award recognizes women who are community role models are visibly supportive of women’s issues, have achieved meritorious goals, and have performed countless hours of community service.
When Santana is not teaching and inspiring young women at UCF, she’s volunteering at the League of Women Voters, the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council, the American Association of University Women, teaching at her church and at the Farmworker Association of Florida. She specifically works with farm workers in Apopka, helping raise awareness about women farmworkers’ plight and helping empower them. It was the Farmworker Association that nominated Santana for the Summit Award.
Santana said she is humbled by the honor, and that she is inspired by the work her fellow honorees do and that other members of the Women’s Resource Center perform often in complete anonymity.
“It is amazing what some of other winners and members do in their free time to help people they might not even know,” Santana said. “It is inspiring and I think necessary for all our wellness.”
The Women’s Resource Center is a nonprofit organization supporting the community by celebrating women’s achievements, connecting with other women’s organizations and supporting women’s social, educational, health, political, economic, spiritual and artistic issues.
College of Arts & Humanities Dean Jose Fernandez, who appointed Santana to director of the Women’s Studies program in 2009, attended the ceremony Tuesday and called the award well earned.
“Dr. Santana’s commitment to improving the lives of women farmworkers is commendable,” Fernandez said. “Her Summit Award exemplifies UCF’s service mission to the community. We are extremely proud to have a faculty member with the caliber and heart of Dr. Santana.”
Santana joined UCF’s faculty in 1995 as an assistant journalism professor. She spent 14 years working with students in the journalism department, which she said has been one of her greatest professional joys. She also served and continues to be involved in the journalism master’s thesis and honor’s thesis programs. She served three years as the division head for journalism. She enjoyed her work with journalism students, but when Fernandez asked her to move to Women’s Studies, she said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“The program is needed because no other academic unit teaches history on women’s achievements, problems and struggles,” Santana said of women’s studies at UCF. “Most of the history books in our country only make reference to men’s office, politics, achievements and such. Even the most progressive programs mention women 2 percent of the time or less.”
Others honored Tuesday night were Vanessa Echols, WFTV,Channel 9 anchor and Sue Foreman who continues in her retirement to contribute many hours to various local organizations, such as The Valencia College Foundation and The League of Women Voters.