Daily News

HCC Criminal Justice Professor Honored with Inspiration Award

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) Criminal Justice Professor Nicole Hendricks was honored on Oct. 6 with an Inspiration Award from the African American Female Professor Award Assoc. (AAFPAA).

Each year, the association celebrates a handful of Black female professors at its annual awards banquet, which this year was held at the Griswold Theater on the campus of American International College in Springfield. Hendricks, a 17-year faculty member at HCC, was one of four Black female professors recognized.

“It was a great honor to receive this award,” Hendricks said. “The ceremony itself was a great celebration of the incredible women who are working in education and a wonderful moment to bring attention to the fact that so few college faculty are Black women — less than 2%.”

That statistic was also emphasized by Traci Talbert, AAFPAA’s president and founder, who said professors like Hendricks are making strides to improve diversity and inclusion at their own institutions.

“Just their presence alone helps to engage with the students and help them identify and relate,” Talbert said. “They are also working in affinity groups and doing other things on college campuses as well as in the community to ensure that these experiences continue to enhance and build equity.”

Hendricks has served as chair of the Criminal Justice Department at HCC and teaches a variety of courses in that area, including criminology and women’s studies. She also teaches interdisciplinary courses as part of HCC’s Learning Communities program. For example, in “Reimagining Incarceration,” she and her teaching partner, Economics Professor Mary Orisich, explore mass incarceration through the lens of feminist social-justice theory, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, and political economy.

Hendricks’ efforts to reimagine incarceration extend well beyond the classroom. Together, she and Orisich founded Western Mass CORE (Community, Opportunity, Resources, Education), a prison-education program based at HCC that seeks to facilitate pathways to college for people impacted by the criminal legal system.

“Her strong commitment to education as a vehicle for social justice and societal change is evident in her work inside and outside the classroom,” said Kim Hicks, HCC’s dean of Arts and Humanities, who introduced Hendricks at the banquet and nominated her for the award.

In accepting the Inspiration Award, Hendricks said she also accepts the responsibility that goes along with it. “It signifies, to me, a dedication to continuing to live my purpose, fostering a political consciousness that places equity and racial justice at the center, and does so in community with others.”