José Z. Calderón, Pitzer College professor emeritus of
sociology and Chicano/a and Latino/a studies, has been named the National
Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) 2019 Scholar, the
organization’s lifetime achievement award.
“Dr. Calderón is the quintessential Chicano activist
scholar,” said the NACCS Board in announcing the award. He is “a true
representative of this award through his lifetime commitment to the
establishment of NACCS, the Community Caucus and his championing of the Chicana
and Chicano community with exceptional academic excellence.”
The son of immigrant farm workers from Mexico, Calderón grew
up in a small farming town in northern Colorado. In his book Lessons from an Activist Intellectual:
Teaching, Research, and Organizing for Social Change, he describes how his
experiences inform his approach to teaching and community organizing. “My
struggles with learning English and growing up in a poor immigrant farm-worker
family became the foundations of language, labor and immigration issues that I
passionately took up in my organizing, teaching and research as an activist
intellectual in academia,” he writes.
Calderón earned his PhD in sociology at the University of
California Los Angeles (UCLA), focusing his research on community formations.
He joined Pitzer College’s faculty in 1991. In his book, he explores his
approach to teaching, which recasts students and community participants as both
teachers and learners in social-change projects. He shows how this kind of
community-based pedagogy engages historically excluded individuals from diverse
backgrounds “for whom the educational experience can be either an alienating or
Calderón’s wide range of expertise includes urban and
political sociology, race and ethnic relations, multi-ethnic coalitions, urban
community development, critical ethnography and participant observation,
language rights, experiential and service learning, and Chicano and Latino
In addition to his teaching at Pitzer, Calderón has been a
leading activist in overlapping campaigns in the city of Pomona for immigrant
rights and educational justice, such as ending police checkpoints, advocating
for voting rights, creating alternatives to gang violence and promoting
He has received numerous awards, including: the Ambassador Nathaniel and Elizabeth Davis Civil Rights Legacy Award; the “Dreamkeeper Award” from the California Alliance of African American Educators; the California Campus Compact Richard E. Cone Award for Excellence and Leadership in Cultivating Community Partnerships in Higher Education; the “Goddess of Pomona Award” from the City of Pomona, the Michi and Walter Weglyn Chair in Multicultural Studies at Cal Poly University, Pomona; and the United Farm Workers Union “Si Se Puede” award for his lifelong contributions to the farm worker movement. A recent TedX video, Finding Cesar Chavez: A Transformative Moment, was chosen as an Editor’s Pick nationally. As a community-based activist intellectual, he has published more than 60 articles and studies, as well as two books: Lessons from an Activist Intellectual, and Race, Poverty, and Social Justice: Multidisciplinary Perspectives Through Service Learning.