Rafael Zapata is a Junior Associate with Essential Partners. He was named Providence College’s first-ever chief diversity officer in the newly created Office of Institutional Diversity in January 2012. Zapata works collaboratively with members of the College and greater Providence communities to develop an institutional infrastructure to foster diversity, institutional change, and academic excellence.

Prior to Providence College, Zapata was at Swarthmore College where he worked as assistant dean and director of the Intercultural Center, served as co-coordinator of the College’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program, was dean of sophomore students and coordinator of new student orientation. Within the Philadelphia community, Zapata served as board member and chair of the Puerto Rican/Latino cultural arts organization, Taller Puertorriqueño, was a member of the Philadelphia School District Black and Latino Male Drop-Out Task Force, and a member of the community grant-making committee of the Bread and Roses Community Fund. He is currently a member of the Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias. Before Swarthmore, Zapata was assistant director of the Office of African American, Latino and Asian American Student Services at New York University.

Since 2000, Zapata has worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholars Program and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund as a reader and trainer. Since 2008, he has been an active member of the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers, a consortium of senior diversity officers dedicated to facilitating institutional change to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at colleges and universities committed to the liberal arts. ​

A first-generation college graduate, Zapata earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Iona College and his master’s degree in sociology at Arizona State University. He also spent three years in the doctoral program in sociology and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Zapata was born and raised in New York City and is of Puerto Rican descent. ​​

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