School of Education
January 1, 2012
Research Focuses on Educational Trajectories and Experiences of Latino Students and Other Students of Color in U.S. Schools
Maria Estela Zarate is Assistant Professor of Education at University of California, Irvine. Her research primarily focuses on the educational trajectories and experiences of Latino students and other students of color in U.S. schools. To investigate how students fare in schools she examines both structural forces that limit and expand students’ access to equitable education and family strategies for supporting education. In examining how structural context influences students’ schooling experiences, Dr. Zarate has researched policy, schooling practices, and teacher-student relationships that explain why some students are successful and others are not.
In addition to conducting research, Dr. Zarate teaches undergraduate and graduate courses.
My favorite course is Theories and Pedagogies of Race where undergraduate students learn about dominant racial paradigms, how they apply to education, and how teachers and students negotiate racialization practices in schools.
In the doctoral program, Dr. Zarate teaches Social and Cultural Foundations in Education, College Access and Persistence, Qualitative Methods, and Social and Cultural Diversity in Schools.
Prior to teaching at UC Irvine, Dr. Zarate was Director of Educational Policy Research at the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) at the University of Southern California where she led the institute’s educational research agenda. In this position, she received over $500,000 in grants to carry out research and design innovative outreach programs aimed at examining and addressing the low college attainment rates among Latinos. During her tenure at TRPI, she conducted research on inequitable access to college preparation curriculum in California schools, low levels of financial aid knowledge among Latino families, parental involvement in middle and high school, evaluations of college access programs, and public opinion studies around educational issues.
Dr. Zarate received her Ph.D. from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Science. Her dissertation research, which drew on data collected for a 15-year longitudinal study of 121 Latino immigrant families in Southern California, explored different factors that predict college attendance among Latino immigrant students. She found that academic trajectories are less predictive of college enrollment for females than for males. Language acquisition and literacy development proved to play a larger role in boys’ academic trajectory. On the other hand, school agent relationships played a more prominent role for girls’ eventual college enrollment status.
Dr. Zarate’s interest in access to equitable educational structures stems from her professional experiences. As an admissions counselor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, she traveled around the nation to recruit students and served on the admissions selection committee. As an undergraduate student at Rice University in Houston, Texas, she was an enthusiastic volunteer in the university’s outreach efforts and in the admissions office.
At Rice, I majored in Mathematical Economic Analysis and Policy Studies and thought I was going to make lots of money on Wall Street! After attempting to enjoy life as an investment banking analyst and sales and marketing consultant, I found my home in education research and Southern California.