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Dr. Sergio Inestrosa Embraces Role As Endicott's NCAA F.A.R.

Dr. Sergio Inestrosa, with his dark-rimmed glasses and gray mustache, smiles for a photo in his office. He is wearing a blue collared shirt and is standing in front of a map of the world with a bright, green plant perched on a bookshelf behind him.

BEVERLY, Mass. — He says he doesn't often smile in pictures.

But, for someone who is foreign to the act of bearing teeth and a big grin in a photograph, he offers his best attempt.

Born in El Salvador, but raised in Mexico, Dr. Sergio Inestrosa came to the United States 17 years ago and has been a resident of Beverly, Mass. for the past seven years.

Inestrosa received his Ph.D. in Modern Literature from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Mexico in 1998. He was also a Jesuit student for eight years in Central America, living in El Salvador, Panama and Nicaragua.

He's a professor, colleague, husband, father, neighbor, mentor, and friend.

As a successful faculty member in Mexico where he lived with his wife and two children, he always wondered what life in the United States might be like. When the opportunity presented itself, it was one he couldn't turn down.

"I always had this thought of, 'Can I be successful in another country and culture, a culture that is not my culture, in a language that is not my language?" said Inestrosa.

In 2000, he was awarded a post-doctoral grant to study at Harvard University by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

"I applied to a scholarship in Mexico to come to Harvard to start my post-doctoral research. I met a guy who worked here as a Dean of the International School that sends students abroad and he was the one who opened the door for me. I came to the United States because I wanted to challenge myself more than anything," Inestrosa said.

UP TO THE CHALLENGE

Fast forward to the year 2016.

Inestrosa was hired at Endicott in September 2001 and is now in his 16th year of service at the College, as a Spanish and Latin American topics professor. He teaches courses such as SP 101 Elementary Spanish I, SP 202 Intermediate Spanish II, and SP 300 Special Topics In Spanish: Latin America Literature, to name a few.

He wears many hats and others have taken notice.

Three years ago, Endicott's Director of Athletics, Dr. Brian Wylie, invited Inestrosa to his office and made a proposition. 

"One day, Dr. Wylie invited me to his office and I was curious because I had seen him around, and we'd say hello. I love hockey and he was the coach of the hockey team at the time, but we had never had a conversation for more than two minutes. When he invited me to his office, he was pretty much direct, he said, 'I would like to see you be the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR)," Inestrosa recalled. "And I said, 'Wow!"

The responsibilities as described to Inestrosa were to attend at least one game per month, mediate between the students and the faculty when a conflict arises, and represent the College at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level.

Considering that he is always up to the challenge and open to helping out in any way that he can, Inestrosa said, "Well, let's try it. Let's see how the thing goes... And here we are!"

The rest is history.

He's now in his fourth year as the Faculty Athletics Representative, which according to the Faculty Athletics Representative Association (FARA) and its corresponding handbook, the Faculty Athletics Representative is a position created formally in January 1989 when the NCAA passed leglislation (NCAA Constitution Bylaw 6.1.3.) to adopt the role of the FAR to provide "a faculty voice ensuring balance between academics and athletics for the benefit of the student-athlete."

The Faculty Athletics Representative is officially a member of the faculty at an NCAA member institution. He or she has been designated by the institution to serve as a liaison between the institution and the athletics department, and is also as a representative of the institution in conference and NCAA affairs. 

When asked what he believes the primary role of being the Faculty Athletics Representative is in his own words, Inestrosa said the following.

"The Faculty Athletics Representative's role is taking care of the students so that the students feel that they are represented, that the students know you, and know that you are there for them in case of a need." 

A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT

As Endicott's designated Faculty Athletics Representative in accordance with the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) and NCAA's Bylaws, Inestrosa traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana two weeks ago to participate in the national 2016 FARA Annual Meeting and Symposium

"When I attend other conferences, you go, say your things and leave. But here, you have to be there because it's not that they are lecturing you, but are there to help you and do things differently," said Inestrosa.

In Indiana, they sit at a round table and share experiences across all three NCAA divisions.

First, there is a discussion of general topics, such as there are many regions in the NCAA that have tagged drugs and alcohol as a major issue, as well as Title IX, equality, and representation. Then, the group Inestrosa belongs to breaks off to discuss Division III specific issues.

"The summit is only for Faculty Athletics Representatives and it's pretty important to attend because there is no conference there. We sit and we share experiences about what problems we are dealing with at our institutions and it's more of helping each other to maximize and optimize our positions within the insititutions. That's what I like. It's not a go and listen to the guy who created a paper, it's more of a how do you deal with this problem? How do you address this particular issue? We use each other as resources," Inestrosa said.

This year in Indianapolis, they discussed the importance of a good nutrition and the proper amount of sleep for student-athletes, and about opportunities for student-athletes to apply for NCAA scholarships for success in the classroom.

When asked why he enjoys his Faculty Athletics Representative position, Inestrosa offered a deep, thoughtful response.

"For me, the students are crucial. They are the reason that we are here. We are here because of the students and we have to serve them and to serve them to the best of our ability. If I have to do that as the Faculty Athletics Representative, I will do it. If I have to do it in my classes, I will do it. If I have to do it as a leader on a tour visiting another country, I will do it because that's my responsibility. That's the call that I have been answering as a teacher," said Inestrosa.

ANSWERING THE CALL

In the summertime, he used to teach at Dartmouth College, where he would collaborate with one of the Big Green's professors and longtime friend, Dr. John Rassias, before he passed away at age 90 in December 2015.

"We were talking about how to convince the faculty to be more supportive of the athletes and to attend their games and those kinds of things and Professor Rassias told me this, 'Listen, we have this same issue, too and we decided not to bother with the faculty because if a faculty member does not like a sport because they don't think that an athlete devotes enough time to the class, then it would be very hard to change that mentality, so what we have done here at Dartmouth is change the conversation," Inestrosa said.

He said they talked about putting the conversation back on the students and the coaches.

"We leave the faculty alone and come back to the students and say, 'Ok guys, I don't think it would be good for your coaches and good for you, and the institution if you are failing a class. Your coaches won't be happy. They won't be proud. Your teammates won't be proud of you for failing that class," Inestrosa added. "It's about changing everything inside the athlete mentality. Now, the athletes go to class thinking "Ok, I have to succeed in this class, for me, in the first place because someday I will be a professional, whether I become a professional athlete or not. I want my teammates and my coaches to feel proud of me and my effort, so I will put a good effort into my classes even if it's a hard class for me, even if I may need to look for tutoring outside of the class, even though I might need to get extra help and spend the extra time."

Inestrosa referenced the story of U.S. Olympic runner Abbey D'Agostino colliding with New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin in the 2016 Rio Olympics Summer Games and how the runners helped each other up and ran almost a mile to complete the race where they hugged at the finish.

"These athletes, they take more pride in the act of helping the other athlete finish the race as they worked together to finish the exercise, than in winning. Winning is not always the most important thing for an athlete. It's showing your values, showing that you are learning skills for life— that's more important than winning," said Inestrosa, "We may not produce many professional athletes, but that's not what's important. What is important is that when those athletes go into the professional world, they carry that pride that we give them from Endicott," Inestrosa said.

TAKE PRIDE AND HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE

The Endicott Athletics & Recreation Department unveiled the Four Core Values of Leadership announced last school year during NCAA Division III week last April 2015. 

Aligning with those core values is the way Inestrosa lives his life and advises his students and student-athletes to go about their studies and everyday endeavors.

"Be honest, be disciplined, work hard, make yourself proud, make your teammates proud, make your institution proud," said Inestrosa.

"Some athletes are very talented as students too, some are not. Some have to work harder and to find more help from the institution and so on, but if they enter into each class thinking 'my teammates will be very proud if I finish this class with a grade that is sufficient enough to make them proud. My coach will be very proud of me.' They are more disciplined in class, because they are disciplined on the field too. If you don't do well in practice, you won't play. The same thing can now be applied to classes. You have to go to classes prepared, not only for you, but your teammates and your coach," added Inestrosa.

At Endicott, we are changing the conversation and overall dynamic to put more emphasis on the coaches as bridge builders.

"The coaches are more important for the student-athletes than me as a faculty member that they see three times a week at the most, whereas they see the coach all the time," said Inestrosa. "The coach is like another mentor for them. When you go through life, you find mentors, and you want to be like this person in particular, so that coach is leading you and holding you more accountable for how you find yourself accountable for your responsibilities as a student and how that reflects on you, your coach, and your institution. Hopefully that will help us to have better students in class, as students and student-athletes. Hopefully the performance will be better and there will be fewer issues."

MINIMIZING CLASS CONFLICTS

As for some of the work he does as the Faculty Athletics Representative, Inestrosa talked about how through his advising sessions, he has worked with students to help minimize class conflicts.

"There are some tricks, such as I suggest you take a course with this professor or that one— I do some advising, though most of the advising is coming from their peers. The peers know better than me whose teaching would be good for you in this situation, if it's the possibility to choose. Sometimes, there is only one class and one faculty member teaching it. But, if there is a chance to select early classes so that there is no conflict with traveling, we can be sure to try to minimize these conflicts of interest because that's what we want to do," said Inestrosa.

A conflict of interest, according to Inestrosa, is what often creates the problem in the first place.

Now, students can fill out class conflict forms to alert a professor of a potential issue with a sports schedule and travel arrangements. He keeps a stack of the forms in his office in the Samuel C. Wax Academic Center, Office 113 E.

A GIVE AND TAKE APPROACH

Inestrosa recalled a conversation he had with two students in his Latin America class that play on the hockey team. In talking to his students, Inestrosa emphasized the importance of students working hard to put in the effort and for the student-athletes getting that same support back.

He said from his conversations with students, his message of compromise for all is this: "It's good for the faculty to attend the games because it's important for the students to feel like 'my professor is here' and when they go back to classes you (the faculty) now have some authority to say you (the student-athlete) have to give me more effort."

When asked what advice he has for his students and student-athletes, Inestrosa drove home his point of hard work.

"I would say 'Work Hard' in every single circumstance. Work hard as an athlete, work as hard as you can so you can excel in the athlete part that you love the most. Work hard as a student because most likely your future is as a student and that will be there thing that takes you out into the professional world. You may work in the field that you're in as an athlete, but likely you have to make your salary through something that you studied and succeeded in as a student— so work hard, that's my suggestion," said Inestrosa.

MAKING HIS PRESENCE KNOWN A PRIORITY

Over the past few years, Inestrosa has been working to make himself more visible in the Endicott community in several ways and for one big reason.

"Last year, when I was at the NCAA meeting, a former collegiate athlete spoke and said something that for me was brutal: she said, 'When I was in college, I didn't know who the Faculty Athletics Representative was' and I said to myself, 'Oh my gosh, how many students at Endicott say 'I have no idea who the heck the Faculty Athletics Representative is?' So for me, it's a priority for me for the students to know that I am there for them. When there is a case we will work together, but more importantly, before we have the case I am there to help prevent said case through advising that we can do this, we can do that, and those types of things," Inestrosa emphasized.

To make himself a  more well-known individual across campus and with the student-athletes, Inestrosa has been attending the Student-Athlete Advisory (SAAC) and compliance meetings.

In addition, Inestrosa is also part of the Diversity Committee and Athletics Hall of Fame Committee on campus.

You may also have seen him interact across multiple social media accounts: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | WordPress | Blogspot

Inestrosa, most notably, maintains a Facebook page that is filled with shared Endicott Athletics posts, supporting and promoting the various teams on campus.

For instance, during the Fall 2016 season alone, he interacted with the Endicott Athletics & Recreation Department's page on nearly all of the posts to date, as almost always one of the first people to post a congratulatory comment followed by messages of encouragement — which of course, are capped off with his signature triple exclamation points for good measure.

"Let's go, Gulls!!!" "Well deserved recognition!!! "Let's take care of business, señoritas!!!" are just three of his more recent displays of support.

A FUNNY GUY SHOWING HIS SUPPORT

His vibrant personality translates from the interwebs to a charming person in real life, too, and that same fun he exudes translates well to the classroom environment.

Though self-proclaimed "not a funny guy", Inestrosa admits his students have said he's funny and engaging because he is wild in class. According to Rate My Professor, Inestrosa currently boasts a 4.2 overall quality rating based on a 1-5 scale average from eight students. His adjective tags on the website include "hilarious" and "respected" and received positive reviews.

"I put a lot of energy into my classes. Monday-Wednesday-Friday when I get home, I am tired. I know I am tired when I don't have any energy to read. I invest a lot of energy into my classes and I try to imagine possibilities to get the point across to make them speak and create sentences," said Inestrosa.

WHAT HIS STUDENTS SAY ABOUT PUTTING IN THE EFFORT

There are several current student-athletes enrolled in his courses, including Endicott women's soccer sophomore midfielder Taylor O'Donnell (Stratham, N.H.) and women's volleyball sophomore setter Staci Sonke (Bishop, Calif.) that he commends as being very good students. 

"Other than being a great professor and mentor, Professor Inestrosa is a better person before anything else. He is the most humble, selfless, caring, compassionate, intelligent and understanding person and professor I have met during my time here at Endicott. His biggest strength is how amazingly intact and willing he is to understand the reality of this generation, which holds value as he always has the best interests of the students and athletes in mind. He naturally always puts forth his best effort and positivity into what he does, making him a great friend as well as one of the biggest inspirations and contributors to our athletic program and school," said O'Donnell.

There's also Endicott women's soccer All-CCC First Team sophomore midfielder Sharlotte Pernice (West Springfield, Mass.) who is in the ROTC program. "She works hard and gives you the best the she has. She is a very good player," Inestrosa said.

Pernice echoed her professor's praise.

"Dr. Inestrosa is one of the most spirited and passionate professors I've ever seen. He puts a tremendous amount of time and effort in the classroom with his students, and just as much attending games and rooting for the Gulls. Every time I see him he has something funny to say and he puts a smile on my face. I'm very lucky to have had him as a professor and as the Faculty Athletics Representative," said Pernice.

Effort, he says, is what matters whether you're a student or a professor.

"That's the only thing you can ask, you can't ask for someone to be the smartest person in the world but you can ask them to try. As much as you try on the field when you are playing, please also try in the classroom," said Inestrosa.

ON TEACHING SPANISH

As a Spanish professor, Inestrosa also stresses the importance of language.

One of his proudest moments as a professor that he can recall is when his nursing students report back that they've been able to apply what they are learning to real life situations.

"I am proud of my students for when they go to work, the nurses for instance probably more so than anybody else on campus, when they return from an internship, they say 'I have a Latino patient and I was able to communicate with the family or with him or her', that's an amazing thing for them because they're able to use these tools- and I see language as a tool- it's not rocket science behind the language as I teach it. Take it as a tool, as an instrument for you to succeed in life, period," said Inestrosa.

He went on to say, "Use language as a tool, it will open doors for you. You may be hired if you speak another language, you can make a living, and if not, it can make you happy that if you encounter someone who you have no idea who he or she is and you can get your point across, that's what I like to hear. Nurses, in particular, are able to do that because they are in constant contact with patients."

ALL ABOUT ENDICOTT

In May 2006, Inestrosa received Endicott's Excellence In Teaching "Faculty of the Year" Award. 

When asked what he likes the most about Endicott, he said it's the people.

"My colleagues, the students, the administration. It's a very human-oriented institution. The institution where I taught before was very large, so here I see many people that I came across every day and said hi, hola, buenos dias, just for fun. With my students, I kind of connect with them," said Inestrosa.

That connection is something that is rewarding for him.

When 2016 Men's Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee Nemanja Marinkovic came back to campus in September for Homecoming Weekend, he met up with Inestrosa and it was a reunion that made him very happy.

"He wasn't my student because he speaks Spanish perfectly, but he worked with me as a tutor, so we had a big relationship even though we didn't have much to do with academics. I saw him when he came back for the Hall of Fame ceremony and it was a very natural happiness to encounter. His words of 'I'm so happy to see you!' weren't fictional whatsoever. He was very genuine in the sense that he approached me and I take a lot of pride in that. It's more important than anything else to be a good human being...the rest is pure vanity," said Inestrosa.

HIS PEERS ARE COMPLIMENTARY OF HIM IN EVERY WAY

Inestrosa is very fond of the staff who work in the library, saying, "I love those people! They work hard and are very accommodating. They are good people and try to help all the time. All those people are fantastic!"

Dr. Inestrosa, your colleagues think you're pretty fantastic, yourself.

Dean of Education and Director of Endicott Scholars Program Dr. Sara Quay, the woman in charge of hiring Inestrosa in September 2001 had this to say about her peer:

"Professor Inestrosa is one of the most supportive educators I know.  He is always available to help students and inspires in them a love of language.  He brings warmth and kindness to everything he does.  Endicott is fortunate to have him as part of its community and I am glad to call him a friend and colleague," said Quay. 

Associate Dean, Arts & Sciences/Chair of Humanities Dr. Mark Herlihy offered his remarks as well.

"Dr. Inestrosa has been a valued member of the Endicott faculty. He's a terrific Spanish instructor. In fact, he won the College's Excellence in Teaching Award one year.  He's also led or co-led Endicott students on culture and community service trips to Costa Rica and Mexico, and on a study tour to Peru. He's an accomplished poet as well. Above all, he's a great colleague," said Herlihy.

Director of Athletics Dr. Brian Wylie said, "We are so fortunate here at Endicott to not only have quality faculty, but to also have a faculty governance structure that is so supportive of the value and mission of athletics and recreation. For the last four years, Dr. Sergio Inestrosa has played a critical role as the NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative ensuring that our student-athletes maintain high academic integrity while navigating the rigors of intercollegiate athletics. The relationships that Dr. Inestrosa has built over the years with our coaches and his commitment to cheering on our student-athletes at contests, further demonstrates the importance of his role. This has even been recognized by the conference commissioner as Dr. Inestrosa has participated in several athletics symposiums and training with the NCAA in Indianapolis. I have tremendous respect for Dr. Inestrosa and look forward to many more years of our partnership."

WHAT ELSE HE'S BEEN UP TO

Since coming to Endicott, Inestrosa has taught a variety of Spanish and Mexican Culture courses and has been busy organizing a Spanish Cine Club on campus.

As a member of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), Latin America Studies Association (LASA), and National Education Association (NEA), Inestrosa is always looking for ways to enhance the material he teaches.

He has also developed the Spanish minor and designed many new courses, including Spanish for Professionals, Spanish Cinema, Spanish Translation, Spanish Composition, Latin American History and Culture, and a Latin American literature course.

He has presented many research papers in Mexico, Latin America, the United States, and Asia, and has published nine books. He is currently working on his third book of poetry that he hopes will be out by the end of the year.

"I'm constantly writing and publishing things, the academic part is very important to me," said Inestrosa, "I'm also creating a Cuba syllabus for a new course I hope to be teaching next semester. The Cuba class is about history, politics, the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba."

He says that while he's an academic person, there's also a creative side of him he's had forever. Ever since he was a little boy, he's had the dream to be a writer.

According to his online bio, Inestrosa loves to read, write, meet people, learn new languages, cook, and play soccer.

LIFE'S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

When asked what he would consider to be his greatest accomplishment in life, Inestrosa said that besides being a good husband and father, "I take a lot of pride in trying to be the best possible teacher that I can be to make an impact in the students' lives."

"I know we can't make an impact on all of the students with our style or the way that we are (all those kind of things), but at the end of the day it all plays a role and I still have friends who were my former students and we still communicate. That is something that is rewarding," said Inestrosa.

So, whether you need to pick up a class conflict form or not, stop by and say hi to Dr. Inestrosa, he'll be sure to say "Hola!" and be your biggest fan and advocate. He may even like your post on Facebook. You can catch him at the next ice hockey home game on December 1st at the Raymond J. Bourque Arena — he's a huge fan!

Or perhaps he'll be organizing the first-ever Faculty-Athletics Appreciation Night at Endicott… stay tuned.  

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Article submitted by Annie Jenkins, Endicott Sports Information Graduate Assistant