Meet the Staff
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 since 2002 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.
PC News: Q & A with PC's First Chief Diversity Officer
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 and areas of expertise are racial reconciliation, gender and patriarchy, spiritual formation, theology and justice, and healthy multi-ethnic organizations.
Tierra served as the graduate assistant for the Office of Faculty Development at Western Michigan University where she worked to manage and implement New Faculty Orientation, Academic Leadership Academy, Cool Tools for Teaching, 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 including the Real Talk Diversity Series, Everyone Counts Diversity Learning Community, and various diversity-themed workshops. Tierra was also a member of the core leadership team for WMU’s campus climate study as well as the work group charged with implementing the climate study recommendations. In addition to training and programs, Tierra also worked collaboratively with departments across campus to help foster inclusion, integration, and leadership.
Cathy O’Leary, a graduate of William M. Davies Career and Technical School and attended CCRI to pursue business administration. Prior to joining the Office of Institutional Diversity at Providence College, she spent fourteen years employed by Arpin Group for where she utilized her business skills in the capacity of Office Administrator for the international division.
Cathy thoroughly enjoys working here at PC and she’s the friendly face that greets each person who visits the Office of Institutional Diversity. She loves the Providence College atmosphere and utilizes the track for her daily walk with other staff members. A native Rhode Islander, born and raised in Pawtucket, Cathy currently resides in Warwick with her husband Tom. She is a mother of two adult sons and recently welcomed twin granddaughters to her family.
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.