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Medora Named Outstanding Faculty Member for 2011-12

Published: June 1, 2012

Nilufer Medora recently capped a CSULB career that began in 1986 as a lecturer in Family and Consumer Services with her recognition as 2012’s Outstanding Faculty Member.

Medora was pleased by her distinction. “I feel humbled and honored to have received this award,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I don’t usually believe too much in awards. But it is always nice when the work you put in is recognized. I do really and sincerely appreciate it.”

Born in Bombay, India, Medora is a global educator who attained full professorship in 1995. She developed the Family Life Education Program, one of only two certified undergraduate programs in California and serves as its coordinator. Her passion for international education led her to create the “International Families: Families in Cross-Cultural Perspectives” course in 1988.

Since 2007, she has conducted three short-term study abroad programs in New Zealand and in 2008, she was CSULB’s faculty representative for CSU’s London Semester Consortium. Medora participated in the spring 2010 Semester at Sea program that circled the globe and will set sail again this summer.

The voyage around the Mediterranean region will visit nine nations—Spain, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, Greece, Herzegovina, Morocco and Portugal. “I’m excited,” she said, adding that she also works hard during the trip.

She believes visiting Turkey and Morocco will boost her classroom credibility. “As part of the field program, several students and I will dine with a Moroccan family,” she said. “It will be an interesting experience.”

Travel plays a big role in Medora’s success. “I love to travel,” she said. “Traveling has opened my horizons immensely. I try very hard to instill this in my students. There are so many first-generation university students on this campus and many have never been outside of California. Many have never been on an airplane. The last time I flew with 19 students to New Zealand, half of them said they had never been out of the country before. What a way to start with a 13-hour flight. I try to instill my passion for travel and curiosity in them.”

Her 2010 Semester at Sea voyage pooled her talents with educators from all over the world as they journeyed from San Diego to Florida as part of the non-profit Institute for Shipboard Education program that has launched 100 voyages since 1963.

Equal opportunity distinguished the 26,000-mile journey. “Some students were from very privileged home backgrounds and were sent to boarding schools in Switzerland and England,” she recalled. “Other students were from South Central L.A. and were on financial aid and were happy and content to participate in the program and sail around the world. What I loved about the program is that all the students were given an equal opportunity to participate in any activity or function that took place on the ship or at the ports. The program did not cater only to affluent kids.”

Medora saw the whole trip as one long highlight. “I can honestly say that this was the most rewarding and enriching four months of my life,” she said. “I loved working with the students and the faculty. I had to work very hard because the program kept us occupied all the time which left very little time for class preparations but it was well worth it. Overall, I felt that my hard work was appreciated, partly because I was voted the best professor on the ship.”

She returned from her trip a changed person. “I feel I came back with more sensitivity to other cultures,” she said. “I came back more accepting of cultural differences and I could see changes in the students’ faces all around me. Seeing Cambodian poverty rattled them but Indian poverty left them emotionally numb. They didn’t know how to react. It inspired many students to participate in service-learning projects like carrying bricks on their heads for Habitat for Humanity in Ghana.”

Nilufer Medora
Nilufer Medora

She previously led 20 students on a three-week class to New Zealand in the summers of 2007, 2009 and 2011 that was titled “A Comparative Study of Children and Families in New Zealand and the United States.” The group traveled all over the nation from its northernmost city of Paihia all the way south to the capital city of Wellington. In 2011, the students also got the opportunity to spend some time on the South Island and she said, “Spending time on the South Island was the highlight of their visit to New Zealand.” She plans another study abroad program to New Zealand in summer 2013.

Her campus leadership includes service on the International Education and Scholarly and Creative Activities committees; and she is a Partners for Success program faculty mentor. In 2010, she received CSULB’s Most Inspirational Professor Award. On the national level, Medora served on the Journal of Marriage and Family Review and the International Journal of Sociology of the Family editorial boards. She is a National Council on Family Relations and Society for Research on Adolescence member, among others. While making community presentations on Indian marriage practices and family life, she started the “Pennies for Slum Children in India” project. As part of this project, she does presentations on the plight of poor children living in India. She collects change and uses the funds to buy school supplies and other necessities for elementary school children who live in dire poverty stricken conditions in Western India. Medora is married to her husband of 30 years, Rajesh Parikh.

Preparation plays another big role in her success. Medora recently produced a thick pair of binders she prepared to teach a single class one time. “Some people would call me a fool,” she said. “But I believe in preparation. I understand some might describe my preparation as obsessive compulsive but I know that, once I learn something, I can always use that knowledge when I teach. I can pass it on to my students.”

It is the students who keep rekindling Medora’s passion for international education. “I can see the joy in them after they finish our program,” she said. “It’s so gratifying to me.”

She encourages other faculty members to participate in the Semester at Sea or at least to consider making travel part of their instruction. “Go for it,” she said. “It will change your life.”

–Richard Manly