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Rafael A. Zapata, PC’s first chief diversity officer, says his
office aims “to bring people together who ordinarily might
not interact.”

​Diversity Office Programming Features Pulitzer Prize-winning Author

The Providence College Office of Institutional Diversity, established in 2012, is sponsoring an extensive series of programming this spring semester for the first time, highlighted by an upcoming appearance by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz.

Díaz will give a reading from his most recent work, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead Hardcover, 2012), on Wednesday, April 10, at 4:00 p.m. in the Ryan Concert Hall of the Smith Center for the Arts. His presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session. There will be a reception and a book signing beginning at 3:30 p.m., also in the Smith Center.

Before heading to PC, Díaz will visit The MET School in Providence. It is one of a network of six public schools in Providence and Newport whose curriculum is focused on an individualized learning approach.

A native of the Dominic Republic, Díaz is the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the fiction editor of the Boston Review. Regarded for his writing on the immigrant experience, he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Trade, 2008). 

Díaz is the first Dominican author, and only the second Latino, to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among other honors, he received a MacArthur Fellows Program “Genius Grant” in 2012. 

His first book of short stories, Drown (Riverhead Trade, 1997), won critical acclaim. His most recent collection, This Is How You Lose Her, is a New York Times best-seller and a 2012 National Book Award finalist.

His appearance at PC is one of several events sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity this spring. The office was created last year as a result of the work of the College’s Diversity Initiatives Committee and is an outcome of the Strategic Plan. The underlying objective of the office is to promote a diverse and respectful campus culture that is welcoming to all.

The office is led by Rafael A. Zapata, associate vice president and chief diversity officer. Zapata came to PC after serving as assistant dean and director of the Intercultural Center at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania for 10 years.

“In addition to being extremely proud to host such a gifted and renowned author, I am thrilled that Mr. Díaz is visiting us because he is a teacher and educator at heart,” Zapata said. “The stories and characters he portrays so wonderfully speak to communities like those found in the city of Providence.”

“I’m excited that he’ll not only be engaging our campus community in various ways but has also kindly agreed to make an appearance at The Met School, a local high school, to engage their students in a discussion of his work. I absolutely love that his visit will have a broader impact.”

Varied expanse of programs

The office’s programming started in January with a lecture on women in the civil rights movement by Dr. Allison Dorsey, professor of history at Swarthmore College. That presentation was followed by a reception for multicultural students who are participants in the New Student Transition Program and a lecture by Dr. Yaba Blay, a scholar of African-American studies at Drexel University.

In late February, Dr. Imani Perry, an African-American studies scholar at Princeton University, spoke on “Freedom and Its Discontents: Reflecting on the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.” In March, the office presented a screening of the film Bully and a discussion with its director, Lee Hirsch. The 2011 documentary chronicles peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America.

“These events speak to the goals of our work: to host outstanding programs and initiatives of intellectual depth and social, cultural, and political relevance that serve the entire campus community, as well as the local Providence community — all with an inclusive and collaborative approach,” Zapata said.

“Ultimately, we hope to bring people together who ordinarily might not interact, to engage with and learn from one another.” 

—Nick Tavares ’16

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