Delina Zapata

Master of Arts in Educational Studies: Educational Policy and Leadership (LEADPOL)

Delina  Zapata, School of Education

Student Status: Current student, full time

Geographic Region of Origin: Chicago, IL

Previous Education: DePaul University with a major in Sociology of Education and minor in Spanish.

Prior to Joining the Program

Prior to joining the program, I worked as a research assistant at Northwestern University at the Institute for Policy Research. Our initiative focused on providing high-quality education, job training, and career-building programs for low-income minority parents whose children were receiving early childhood education services through Head Start.

As an undergraduate, I was McNair Scholar and conducted research at the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University on the academic achievement gap between Latina/o English Language Learners and their English-speaking counterparts. I was also a Golden Apple Scholar and served as a teacher’s aide in underserved Chicago public schools.

Why the Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP) Program? 

I chose the ELP program because its mission and values align with mine. I was seeking a program that would grant me hands-on experiences in research and that had a curriculum exploring the complex dynamics of improving school systems.

The ELP program has a diverse faculty whose members study different populations, particularly those that are marginalized and underrepresented. I was particularly drawn to Dr. David García and Dr. Tara Yosso, who focus on the Chicana/o community. Their work interests me as I endeavor to educate myself and prepare to serve this community in implementing change to mend the achievement gap.

The ELP program faculty and staff have also shown me much respect as a developing scholar, and as a human being. They showed interest in conversing with me about my specific interests in Chicana/o students. They showed respect for my culture by welcoming my father into the activities at Campus Visit Day for admitted students, which was affirmed the value I placed on including my family in the graduate school decision-making process.

Joining the program has given me a unique opportunity to gain the skills in research and theory I need to improve schools and student outcomes for Latinas/os. I have been valued as a person and as a scholar, and I could have not made a better choice of graduate school. 


I’m currently interning in the Contexts of Academic and Social Adjustment (CASA) Lab, where I examine the influences of ethnic identity, socialization, and cultural orientation on the academic achievement and mental health of Latina/o youth.

I have also recently been honored with the opportunity to serve as Educational Justice Intern for the Education Diversity Advisory Committee here at the U-M School of Education. I will be implementing diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity (dije) initiatives that support the development of more a effective and socially-just education system on campus.

Individualized Course of Study

Courses I have chosen include:

Highlights of the Michigan Experience

I have absolutely loved belonging to the ELP cohort with other individuals who share a passion for education reform. We all have different areas of interest but bond through our dialogues on education reform.

I admire all the professors who are so knowledgeable and accomplished, and have such deep passion and enthusiasm for education. This space has made me feel so inspired and empowered.

I have also very much enjoyed the school spirit of Michigan. Football and sporting events are so exciting and fun. They unite all students and really make you feel part of something bigger than yourself. For that reason, I love the Big House*! (*Michigan football stadium)

An unusual highlight of my experience occurred when the program stepped in to help me regain my health after an accident off campus resulted in serious injury. Members of my cohort came to check on me and support my emotional and physical recovery. The program director as well as my faculty advisor both checked in on me. In fact, all of my professors together helped me develop an academic plan that ensured my ability to continue and succeed in the program. People cared first for my well-being as a person, then also supported me academically. The entire program helped me through a tough time and I came out successful. It was beyond touching and I will be forever grateful.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Developing a more socially-just education system is a matter to which I have dedicated my life. I grew up in a Chicana/o community where I was surrounded by people who faced financial hardships due to limited and poor educational opportunities. My community’s failing school system was under-resourced, overcrowded, and had poor-quality teachers who were regularly fired. This led to high drop-out rates as well as low levels of college readiness, even among those who graduated at the top of their class. I am a Chicana first generation college graduate. Entering college I was disheartened to see the lack of diversity, knowing that many other communities of color faced the same issues of access to quality education as mine. Thus, diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity initiatives have always been fiercely important to me.

Though I graduated with my bachelor’s and am now here at the University of Michigan, it was not an easy road to travel. Diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity initiatives have helped me pursue my dream of researching and studying Chicana/o experiences in education.

My life and academic experiences have led me to center my research interests on education policy, with a focus on the consequences of language policies on the academic achievement gap for Chicana/o English Language Learners. I’m also interested in exploring the history of Mexican American education. With this in mind, I plan to pursue my PhD in education and make a profound impact in academia as Chicana scholar. 

Delina invites prospective students to contact her with questions about her experience in the program, diversity in education, or navigating life away from home as a student of color or Latina/o student.

Zapata’s program of study:
Educational Leadership and Policy