CSUF 2021 Titan Excellence Award Winner

Cal State Fullerton celebrated its 2021 University Awards Program with a virtual ceremony featuring fun videos, jeopardy quizzes, scratch-off ticket prizes and sincere appreciation. Hosted by President Fram Virjee and David Forgues, vice president for human resources, diversity and inclusion, faculty and staff members were thanked for their service to Cal State Fullerton.

“While only a handful of faculty and staff will be recognized with awards today, all of us deserve this moment to revel in our collaborative success,” said Virjee. “I especially want to give a shoutout to our Re-Entry Leadership Team. Know that as we repopulate the campus over the summer and fall, this cross-campus group of Titan heroes is behind all of it. I also want to give special recognition to all the employees who have remained on campus from day one, supporting and maintaining the university’s ongoing operations.”

This year, 250 nominations were received for the Titan Excellence Award; 215 nominations were from students. Out of these nominations, three individuals were selected for the honor. Of these three, one was chosen as Titan of the Year.

2021 Titan Excellence Award Winner

Debra Cote
Academic Affairs (Professor, Special Education)

Debra Cote’s nomination notes that she is an excellent professor and an expert in her field. Not only is she knowledgeable about behavior and evidence-based practices, but she also is an excellent role model for future teachers. The student nominator notes that in one of the classes she took with Cote, she faced a daunting amount of technical reading and rigorous projects, and almost dropped the course. However, because the course was a prerequisite, she had no choice but to stick with it.

“Professor Cote was always there to help her students. She held Zoom meetings to clarify information for upcoming projects and that made us all feel connected. She requested that we each make an appointment during her office hours so she could get to know each one of us on a more personal level. She spent 45 minutes getting to know me and when we were wrapping up the call, she said she was honored that I took the time to speak with her. I have never had a professor say something like that to me before, and it made me feel special.

“She was always available to guide and support us. This kind of support and caring makes students want to work hard.

“We were assigned a group project where we had to work collaboratively with three other students we had never met. I remember thinking this would be difficult, yet it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my educational career.

“When she noticed that I was turning classwork in on weekends, she reached out to me to see if I was okay. I shared with her my struggles of caring for a chronically ill husband and a daughter with autism. I was working and going to school full time. She showed great compassion, sharing a personal story that helped me. Professor Cote has made me wiser in so many ways, and she has touched my heart. I will never forget her lessons of inclusion, kindness and compassion.”