Advancing Exceptional Scholarship
Dr. Gabriela Zapata is an ADVANCE Administrative Fellow in the Office for Diversity and Associate Professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies at Texas A&M University. We interviewed Dr. Zapata about her research that focuses on multiliteracies-based second and heritage language pedagogy, teacher education, research-guided methodologies, and instructors’ use of metaphors to define what they do and the way in which they see the learning process and how that translates to the classroom.
What is the inspiration for your research?
My goal has always been to do research that has practical purposes. I not only want to address the needs of second and heritage language students and instructors, but I also want to find ways to benefit Latinx and other minoritized communities. I am, for example, committed to the development of open educational materials, and I participate in interdisciplinary grant-funded projects (with colleagues in agriculture, pharmacy, and other STEM fields) whose main purpose is to give a voice to minoritized communities and to improve different aspects of their lives. I am also passionate about mentoring, not only students, but also junior faculty members.
What is one of the most rewarding things you have learned from your research?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is my collaboration with colleagues belonging to different disciplines, and my work with undergraduate and graduate researchers. For example, this past summer, I participated in the Glasscock Center’s Undergraduate Summer Scholars program, and I worked with three outstanding students. It was a wonderful experience that resulted in a collaborative publication scheduled to appear this year in The International Journal of Design in Society. My three great co-authors are also working in their undergraduate theses, which they will complete this semester.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
When I’m not working, I enjoy doing kickboxing four times a week, and yoga, three times a week. I also love being with my family, cooking, and going for walks with my nine-year-old daughter. Spending time with my family is very important to me. Additionally, I read before bed every night, always something not related to work. For example, right now I’m reading Stacey Abram’s Lead from the Outside. I also watch British period shows, and I am a huge fan of “Outlander”!
Is there anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t talked about?
I would just like to share how much I appreciate working in the Office for Diversity. I have grown as a scholar, as a person, and as a teacher. For example, last semester I was supposed to teach a class that focused on linguistics. After my first two months at the Office for Diversity, I realized I needed to contribute more to our conversation on issues of DEI, and I completely changed my plan for the class syllabus. I shifted my focus to linguists and social justice. The class examined minoritized linguistic populations, Black ASL, inclusive language, non-binary identities, pronoun use, etc. Working in the Office for Diversity has really brought a new outlook on my work and mission as a linguistics activist. I was already an activist, but I have now become more involved in activism, especially when it comes to the role that language plays in society. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute, through education, and in any way I can, to make this world more equitable and inclusive.
Crystal S. Carter