Dr. Daniel Delgado (Faculty)
By University Communications
Monday, 06 18 2018
It is a fulfilling moment for a faculty member when students peel back the layers of their preconceived notions to discover unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable, truths. These are just the kind of transformative “ah ha!” experiences that Dr. Daniel Delgado strives to facilitate in his Race and Ethnicity class at Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA).
Ever since earning his Ph.D. in sociology from Texas A&M, Dr. Delgado has sought to illuminate how asymmetrical power relationships are perpetuated in all kinds of social institutions, economic and political systems, and other organizations. His research topics of interest include inequalities facing the Latino middle class as well as inequities that are structurally embedded in higher education, law enforcement and the widespread gentrification occurring in urban spaces throughout America.
Dr. Delgado is a native of San Antonio, where his father was a lifelong educator. “My dad worked for the San Antonio and East Central Independent School Districts, initially as a teacher and then later as an administrator,” he said. “While he never pressured me to go into the field of education, I always thought I might want to pursue it as a profession.”
But it wasn’t until the first year of his doctoral program that Delgado decided on the direction his career would take. “I was fortunate to have two wonderful mentors at Texas A&M University in Dr. Rogelio Saenz and Dr. Joe R. Feagin.
“One day early in my doctoral program, Dr. Feagin sat me down and asked me what kind of professor I wanted to be. He said that if I wanted to just be a successful scholar, then he was not the right advisor for me. But if I wanted to be one who worked for social justice by helping students understand how power functions in society and institutions, then he would be a good fit.”
Dr. Delgado remembers that moment as a kind of ultimatum that awakened in him a profound sense of purpose—a calling. If he went on to complete his Ph.D., he knew it would have to be for more than just a job in academia. Instead, he would be choosing a way of life and a course of action that was more deeply tied to who he was and what he believed in.
Dr. Delgado accepted his first full-time faculty position at Salem State University, an historically white institution located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. There, he also served as a Latino Student Success Faculty Fellow, working with a relatively small Latinx population comprising primarily students from the Dominican Republic. He gained valuable insights into the challenges that teachers and students face when candidly discussing race and ethnicity at a predominantly white university.
“It required me to shed a light on the insidious and often invisible ways that power works through institutions to privilege some groups and disadvantage others,” he recalled. “This proved to be a very uncomfortable and unsettling realization for many of my students.”
The experience at Salem State also stirred something deep inside Dr. Delgado that had been with him since childhood.
“My mother and father taught me about the importance of Latinx, which they called ‘lift as we climb’,” he remembered. “So, I was always aware that even as I advanced my career, I needed to help others.”
On this important point, his parents “walked the walk.” Growing up, Dr. Delgado had seen that as his father advanced his own education career into the administrative ranks, he sought to hire Latinx teachers.
“My father did this because he recognized it was important for the school’s predominantly Latinx student population to have Latinx teachers as role models,” he noted. “Similarly, as my mother worked her way up at a bank—from an administrative assistant to a bank teller to middle management—she always made sure to help other Latinx gain access to opportunities they had earned.”
So, while Dr. Delgado appreciated the experience of teaching at Salem State, he felt he could make a deeper, more profound impact by teaching at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). To be designated as an HSI, colleges must have an undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.
When a position on the sociology faculty at A&M-SA opened up, Dr. Delgado jumped at the chance, and it has proven to be a great fit. As a Latinx professor at a university where nearly 75 percent of students self-identify as Latinx, he serves as a teacher, mentor, coach and inspirational role model for students who might not otherwise have someone to turn to. This multifaceted role allows him to transcend the more rigid faculty-student relationship that has traditionally taken place inside the classroom.
“I enjoy teaching all my students,” he said. “But, I also recognize the need for Latinx students to study race and ethnicity from a professor who reflects and embodies some of the experiences they’ve had growing up. I can talk to them about my own experiences and share stories about my successes and failures as I navigated my way through several universities.”
Since arriving at A&M-SA in 2017, Dr. Delgado has branched out beyond the classroom by engaging in numerous activities and initiatives. In spring 2018, he served on the President’s Commission on Equity, the Latinx Heritage Planning Committee and the Standing Liberty Community. He also served as a speaker for several on-campus culturally diverse workshops, and he has recently authored and co-authored several publications related to his sociological research and the Latinx community.
Whether he is teaching in the classroom, mentoring a student or writing a scholarly journal article, Dr. Delgado realizes that setting an example for students is an important part of his role as a faculty member. “It’s imperative that if you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk,” he expressed. “And I feel like my position at A&M-San Antonio allows me to do that.”