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Meet the Staff

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Rafael Zapata 

Associate Vice President/Chief Diversity Officer

Rafael Zapata 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.  

Zapata came to PC from Swarthmore College, where he worked as assistant dean and director of the Intercultural Center. While at Swarthmore, Zapata also served as co-coordinator of the College’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program, 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.  

Prior to 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. ​​

​​Tierra Marshall

Director of Education, Training, and Assessment​​​

​Tierra L Marshall holds a B.S. in Psychology and African American Studies and an M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from ​​​Western Michigan University. She is currently pursuing an M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary. Her professional interests and areas of expertise are training and professional development, behavior analysis, organizational development, strategic planning, leadership development, and institutional diversity. Her personal interests include issues of race, gender, political ideology, reconciliation, ​spiritual formation, and Reformed theology​.   

Tierra served as the graduate assistant for the Office of Faculty Development at Western Michigan University where she worked to manage and implement several programs, including New Faculty Orientation and the Everyone Counts Diversity Learning Community. She also worked in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Western Michigan University managing multiple diversity programs and various diversity-themed workshops. 

Cathy O'Leary​

Administrative Assistant​​​​​​​

Cathy is responsible for managing the Office of Institutional Diversity’s daily operations and behind the scene details as well as being the front-line resource for the department. Prior to joining Providence College, she spent 14 years working for The Arpin Group as their Office Administrator in the international division. She worked closely with management, staff members and clients to support a constructive and successful operation.

Feel free to reach out to Cathy if you’re unable to reach Rafael Zapata or Tierra Marshall. She is happy to assist in any way she can.






Reza Clifton

Graduate Assistant

Reza is a bilingual writer, artist, educator, and 15-year veteran of radio broadcasting from Providence, RI. She earned her BA in Africana Studies from the University of Rhode Island, where she also minored in International Development. In addition, she studied in Washington, DC and Havana, Cuba.

Reza has been recognized for multimedia projects that appeared on her first blog, for radio and podcast programs she’s produced, and for leadership as a community organizer and contributor (DJ, curator, director) to the music and art scene in RI and New England. As an educator, Reza has worked as a High School English Teacher, Middle School Creative Writing Instructor, and as an Art and Digital Storytelling Teacher in schools, community settings and conferences –locally and nationally.

As a writer, Reza has worked professionally in print and digital journalism, fund development, and marketing, as well as, personally and artistically, producing poetry, prose and short stories for close to three decades. In 2017 alone, she gave the closing performance at the Women’s Rally that was held in RI simultaneously with the mobilization held in DC, and she earned a nomination for Best Spoken Word Artist in RI. In both fiction and nonfiction spaces, she frequently addresses topics like racial and social justice, nature and natural beauty, intersectional feminism, romantic and radical love, and strategies for confronting negative experiences and emotions.