SAN MARCOS — After 18 years in higher education, Hossna Sadat Ahadi found out last month that she had won a national award just days after receiving notice that she was a finalist for a regional award.

The honors were well-deserved, say Sadat Ahadi’s students and colleagues, who have come to know her as an advocate for some of Palomar’s most underprivileged students.

To date this year, Sadat Ahadi has won the “Under 40” award from the American Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC), and has been named one of four finalists for the “Women to Watch” award by Connected Women of Influence (CWI), a regional association of female executives and professionals.

Both organizations were planning award ceremonies this spring—including a March 29 event in Maryland for which she already had a plane ticket—but both were postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 social distancing measures. Sadat Ahadi said the AAWCC ceremony was rescheduled for October, and the San Diego “Women to Watch” winner is scheduled to be announced in August.

Sadat Ahadi came to Palomar as a part-time counselor in 2016, and started her full-time counseling faculty position in January 2018. Today, she is an assistant professor and counselor in the general counseling department. She is on the Guided Pathways Committee, Student Equity and Achievement Council, and General Education Workgroup Committee.

From the beginning, she recalled, “I was interested in what we’re doing to support students who have ongoing barriers and are racially-minoritized.”

Among her duties at the college, Sadat Ahadi leads professional development workshops focused on racial equity on campus, drawing on her “background in social justice and human rights.”

She said Palomar has already made bold strides to improve equity: “We not only provide professional development (for faculty and staff), but we also provide a platform for diverse students to partake in the decision-making process. We’re always looking to include students, so we hear and consider the student narrative, as well.”

Sadat Ahadi said she was humbled to receive back-to-back awards—for which she was nominated by her students—and hopes to keep moving forward on issues of racial equity at Palomar.

“I’m also very hopeful that there will be opportunities for more women of color in academia to receive acknowledgement for their own efforts, and to empower their colleagues to continue to scale racial equity in the education system,” she said.