Professor José Zapata Calderón Recognized as a Community Leader and Scholar

José Z. Calderón
Professor José Zapata Calderón

Claremont, Calif. (October 15, 2021)—Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis named Pitzer College Professor José Zapata Calderón a Hispanic Heritage Month honoree. Solis, who represents the First District on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, posted a series of profiles on Facebook honoring First District leaders during Hispanic Heritage Month. Calderon is a Pitzer professor emeritus of sociology and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies.

Solis recognized him as a scholar and community leader who combines his academic research and writing with community activism. 

“As the son of immigrant farmworkers from Mexico, he has had a long history of connecting his organizing and academic work with community-based teaching, participatory action research, critical pedagogy, and engagement,” her post says. “As a professor at Pitzer College and a community organizer in the Inland Empire region, Calderón has advanced the building of community-based leadership in the development of a day labor center, the defense of immigrant rights, and the continued building of human rights coalitions.”

Solis goes on to cite his wide-ranging work in the community, including serving as president of the Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley, as a board member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education (2013–15) and on the College for all Coalition, Coalition for a Better Los Angeles, and the Pomona Covid-19 Action Committee. Calderón founded the URBAN-Based Research Action Network and the American Sociology Association Latino and Latina Studies Section.

Solis highlighted a long list of other awards that recognize Calderón’s many contributions, to name a few:

  • the National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award
  • the “Dream Keeper 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 United Farm Workers’ Union “Si Se Puede” award for his life-long contributions to the farmworker movement

He has published over 60 articles, including the recent article “Intersectional Organizing and Educational Justice Movements: Strategies for Cross-Movement Solidarities,” in the journal The Assembly. His book Lessons from an Activist Intellectual: Teaching, Research, and Organizing for Social Change draws on his experience as the son of immigrant farmworkers from Mexico.

José Zapata Calderón joined Pitzer College’s faculty in 1991. His courses and research cover a multitude of subjects, including 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 Chicanx and Latinx communities. He received an AA from Northeastern Jr. College, a BA from the University of Colorado, and a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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