Daily News

WSU’s Enrique Morales-Diaz Wins Latino Scholarship Fund’s Antonia Pantoja Award

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University (WSU) interim Dean of Faculty Enrique Morales-Díaz is the recipient of the Latino Scholarship Fund (LSF) of Western Massachusetts’ Antonia Pantoja Award, which honors people who contribute to the Latinx community through research and education. It was presented in June, during the organization’s 30th annual awards ceremony, held virtually.

The Latino Scholarship Fund of Western Massachusetts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to putting higher education within reach of college-bound students in the region.

Morales-Díaz leads Westfield State’s initiative to become a federally recognized Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) and chairs the University’s Racial Equity and Justice Institute Team. The HSI designation is part of a larger commitment by Westfield State to address systemic racism and inequities on campus, such as in its policies and practices. It also supports its efforts to become a student-ready, relationship-centered campus community that is fluent in understanding all of its students’ needs and that values their culture.

“To say that I was surprised to learn I have been bestowed the Antonia Pantoja Award is an understatement,” Morales-Díaz said. “Dr. Pantoja’s example is what I strive to emulate with my work on these highly important matters of inclusivity and accessibility.”

An activist for the Puerto Rican community in New York City, Pantoja is best known for establishing ASPIRA in 1961, a nonprofit organization that promotes education and advancement for Puerto Rican youth by providing clubs within schools, career and college counseling, advocacy for bilingual education, and other services.

In his introduction of Morales-Díaz, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago said he was delighted to celebrate the accomplishments of his former student from their days at the State University of New York Albany, where Santiago taught as a professor.

“I know Enrique well,” Santiago said. “His receipt of the Antonia Pantoja Award is very well-deserved for his contributions to the [Latinx] community and to Westfield State University.”

One of Morales-Díaz’ former students, LSF board member Derek Estrella, nominated him for the Antonia Pantoja Award.

“As a former student of Dr. Morales-Díaz, I had the opportunity of getting to know his deep commitment to the Latinx community and, more specifically, this community at Westfield State University,” said Estrella, who graduated from WSU in 2019. “Dr. Morales-Díaz has always taken an initiative to be involved with Latinx students who are trying to navigate their collegiate careers.

“In addition to serving in various mentorship roles, he has pioneered many conversations surrounding intersectionality of being queer and Latinx,” Estrella added. “For these reasons — and many more — I am delighted to have advocated for Dr. Morales-Díaz as a more-than-deserving recipient for the Antonia Pantoja Award.”