Todd Pagano - Student Introduction

Remarks by Nelsy Carcamo Ortiz
Former student of Todd Pagano
2012 Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year

In 2006, I became the first person in my extended family to attend college. Although I was determined to major in mathematics, the moment I met Dr. Pagano, which was during the first day of college orientation, my career aspirations immediately changed. He has a very powerful way of turning students on to science. One day, Dr. Pagano took me and other students outside to test water samples for petroleum contaminants. After that experience, I said to myself, "This is it! This is what I want to do." I had found my passion and also a mentor who would go on to open many doors for me. 

College can be challenging for most students. As a deaf-hard-of-hearing individual with English as my second language, college was quite intimidating for me. But Dr. Pagano believed in me so much that I began to believe in myself. He is a person who cares about student success more than anything else. He has an absolute passion for teaching. He teaches differently than any other professor I have ever had. Dr. Pagano engages students, challenges students and even entertains students in class (just ask any of his former students for details about his electron dance). He also has a unique ability to teach his classes using his voice and sign language—something that was of great benefit to me. Dr. Pagano plays an active role in encouraging all of his students to continue their education and also helps to place them in jobs after graduation.

Not only was Dr. Pagano my professor, but he was also my research mentor. One of the greatest experiences of my college career was being involved in chemical research under Dr. Pagano's direction. I absolutely love doing research, and I succeeded because he believed in me and believed that the work I did could make a difference in people's lives. Through the research experience, he taught me much more than just chemistry; he taught me to be brave, outgoing and confident and to speak up about my thoughts and ideas. Through this experience, I learned something new every day; new challenges and creative ways toward problem solving. I also got to see the country through research. I traveled all the way to the Pacific Coast and even saw, for the first time, snow-topped mountains in Utah.

I opened this introduction saying that I was a first-generation college student the day I met Dr. Pagano. I am proud to say that I am now the first college graduate in my family—with not one, but two degrees—and I am now also in the process of completing my master's degree. Dr. Pagano has been critical to my education every step of the way. I am so grateful to have met him on that day years ago and am excited that you all have the chance now to meet him as well. So, honored guests, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you the U.S. Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year: my professor, adviser, mentor and hero, Dr. Todd Pagano.