"The point is to get at the issues, not just simply agree." Throughout his career, Rafael Zapata has encouraged, prodded, and created spaces for students to explore ideas and build community - first at NYU as assistant director of the Office for African American, Latino, and Asian American Student Services, and now at Swarthmore, where he supports programming for the various groups associated with the Intercultural Center (IC). Those groups, which have more than doubled in number since his arrival on campus in 2002, include ones for Latino, Asian, Native American, and queer students, as well as those for, among others, South Asian, multiracial, and Muslim students and those who support immigrant rights. He also helped inaugurate and program Class Awareness Month, now held each fall.
Through his work with the IC, Zapata also collaborates with local community-based organizations such as the Asian Arts Initiative (headed by Gayle Isa '93), the Prison Moratorium Project, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and Taller Puertorriqueño. In 2006, he began his tenure as board chair of the latter, which promotes Latino arts and culture throughout the Philadelphia area.
Zapata earned his B.A. from Iona College and M.A. from Arizona State University. Currently he is a Fontaine Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is completing his Ph.D. in sociology. Perhaps not surprisingly, his academic interests continue to inform his work. In response to student interest, he developed and helped teach a class in Spring 2006 that focused on the experience of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., the first course of its kind at the College. "I never had a class like it myself," he says, "even in grad school. Whatever I knew, I had learned on my own. That I helped play a role in making this course happen - it matters that I'm here."
Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.