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Faculty of CNM: Marissa Wald’s Passion for Teaching Earns Her Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Award

Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be highlighting the winners of the Distinguished Faculty Awards that were presented to both full-time and part-time instructors at all six CNM schools
Faculty of CNM: Marissa Wald’s Passion for Teaching Earns Her Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Award

Oct 29, 2020

Marissa Isaak Wald says her mom used to tell her it was going to be hard to pick a career because Marissa was interested in nearly everything. The world was there to be studied. Luckily, Marissa eventually found Geography, a discipline that was so broad it allowed her to chase all of her curiosities. 

Today, Marissa teaches Geography at CNM and says she’s always excited to share her passion with new students. Her classes in physical, human, and world regional geography introduce students to an international perspective and get them thinking about how their lives, homes, and environments are tied to those of other communities across the globe.

“The idea of global citizenship is real,” she says. “By thinking about how we’re connected to other communities and places, we can all begin to create a more humane understanding that will help us do everything from protect the environment to reduce poverty both at home and abroad.”

This commitment to her students, CNM’s larger mission, and a global perspective is why Marissa was named the 2020-2021 overall full-time CNM Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year. She’s also the winner of the full-time Distinguished Faculty Award for the School of Math, Science & Engineering (MSE). 

“I’m very excited and really honored,” she says of the awards. 

Marissa says she’s always worked hard to open the world up to students while also keeping them grounded here in New Mexico. In her physical geography class, for example, she and the students learn about why rivers, mountains, and other geographical features across the earth exist where they do. But they always start with New Mexico’s mountains and rivers as their first case studies. In her human geography class it’s the same. Students study why humans have made certain locations their home, and New Mexico is one of the first examples. 

In class she also gives students the opportunity to use geography as a skill builder. Some students are ready to dive into a particular topic, while other students use the class to improve their reading and writing skills or learn more about qualitative methods. 

“I really like being able to have a customizable classroom and I appreciate that geography as a discipline allows me to do that,” Marissa says.

In MSE, Marissa has worked hard to promote the program and keep the curriculum exciting, focused, and cutting edge. She sits on the MSE Curriculum Committee where she evaluates new course applications to ensure consistent quality across MSE. For students, she’s an active participant in College Days and mixers and says she tries to inspire students to continue studying geography and some even continue onto a degree.

More broadly, Marissa says her success as a faculty member is not a one-way street. As part of MSE, and the larger CNM community, she’s felt supported throughout and couldn’t be prouder to be part of the college.

“I’ve worked at many different higher-ed institutions and I’ve never encountered a community of care like the one here at CNM,” she says. “I’ve lived everywhere from Kenya to Israel and Oregon to New York and I’ve never seen a concentration of faculty who are so committed to the job of teaching.”