Faculty Profile: Dr. Socorro Zaragoza

Dr. Socorro Zaragoza; Associate Professor of Spanish, Advisor, Diversity Chief Officer for College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences

Originally from the state of Michoacán, Mexico, Socorro Zaragoza came to the United States 25 years ago after attending high school in the state of Colima, Mexico. Zaragoza obtained her bachelor’s degree in foreign language teaching at the University of Colima.

After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Zaragoza applied to be a teaching assistant in the U.S. at Wabash College, an all-male school located in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

When she first arrived in the US, she remarked that not knowing the English language was a barrier for her, but she overcame that barrier and was offered to teach a second year at Wabash.

“I really enjoyed teaching the culture, teaching the language,” said Zaragoza.

The professor that Zaragoza worked with at the time encouraged her to apply for graduate schools, and shortly after, she applied to Arizona, Texas, and Purdue Universities. However, she was not accepted and decided to return to Mexico, where she obtained a job teaching English.

During that same year, Zaragoza received an offer from Purdue University to pursue her degree at the graduate level. She returned to the U.S. in 1998, where she obtained a master’s in Spanish and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American studies.

She is the only member of her family to obtain a Ph.D. or college degree.

After Zaragoza completed her Ph.D., she received an offer to teach in Wisconsin; however, she declined, stating she was not overly fond of the cold weather. Shortly after, she received an offer at EKU.

“I really enjoyed my visit to EKU and really connected with the professors in the department,” said Zaragoza. “I really connected with them and saw the things that they were doing for the students and, again, I have always been ‘student first’ so I thought that it was a great fit, because it aligned with my values and my purpose and my goals, so I accepted the offer.”

Zaragoza began teaching at EKU in 2008 and has just completed her 13th year. She currently serves as an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Languages, Cultures, and Humanities (LCUH) and as the chief diversity officer for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS).

As chief diversity officer, Zaragoza said that she feels EKU has come far in its recruitment of Latino students in the last seven years; however, she feels there is always more work to be done.

Zaragoza said the growth of the Latino community on EKU’s campus has been noted through the Latino Student Association (LSA), an organization that she co-founded in 2009 with Dr. Marta Miranda, a previous director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA).

After receiving an invitation to a “salsa fiesta” event on campus, Zaragoza felt the event was not an accurate representation of the diversity of Latino culture, and this led to the founding of LSA.

“When Dr. Miranda contacted me and said, ‘I think we have some students that are interested to start a student organization,’ I immediately said, ‘Of course, let’s do it,’ because there was nothing for them, nothing that represented their culture,” said Zaragoza.

Shortly after LSA was founded, Zaragoza and Miranda worked with the department of LCUH to organize the Latino Street Fair in 2009. The event was originally a one-day event; however, it has evolved into a month-long event that now takes place during Latino Heritage Month.

As chief diversity officer, Zaragoza is also involved in many committees such as the EKU Diversity Committee, President’s Leadership Council, President’s Council for Institutional Excellence and Innovation, President’s Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board and many more.

The goal of all these committees is to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on EKU’s campus. This is achieved by discussing topics such as campus climate, campus policy, recruitment and retention of students, diverse faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and diversity of class curriculum.

Zaragoza said that she is grateful to have the opportunity to represent not only the Latino community but also diversity efforts on EKU’s campus.

“I feel fortunate because I feel that people respect what I have to say, and, again, I always say ‘What is the purpose of me being on all those different committees?’” said Zaragoza. “The purpose is for me to bring that different perspective and also the student perspective, and that is what I value the most.”

Because of her commitment to diversity efforts, Zaragoza was named an EKU Fellow in the spring of 2021 by President David McFaddin. The program was initiated to recognize the achievements of diverse faculty and administrators.

Zaragoza also stated she feels her duty as a faculty member is to not only expose students to diversity but also to promote equity on campus.

“I think it is very important for us to understand that one thing is diversity and equality and then that everybody is welcome, but equity is what is important. And equity means that you are going to level the ground so that everybody has the same opportunities,” said Zaragoza.

Zaragoza hopes that EKU can continue growing its diversity efforts in the future.

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