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Aranda named top 20 Hispanic professor in Florida

TAMPA, Fla. -- For University of South Florida Associate Professor Elizabeth Aranda, teaching has been her passion.

Since her days at the University of Florida where she started teaching as a grad student, Aranda has always wanted to inform people about inequality.

That passion has led her to being named one of the top 20 Hispanic Professors in Florida by Online Schools Florida. The list honors professors who were awarded for their excellence in the classroom, on campus, and/or the community, which Aranda won an award for “Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching” in 2012.

Aranda said she was surprised when she was notified of this honor via email, who teaches in the Department of Sociology.

“I was completely caught by surprise,” she said. I didn’t realize that it had happened. It caught me by surprise, but it’s flattering.”

She also said the achievement is reassuring her that she is doing something right.

But the road to becoming a sociology professor wasn’t an easy road.

In her sophomore year at Saint Joseph University, Aranda, majoring in psychology at the time, lost interest in her major and dropped all her courses. It wasn’t until she ran into a dean, who she knew through working in service projects, that planted an idea into her mind.

The dean, who was a sociologist, had convinced Aranda to take Introduction to Sociology class. Through that class, she became interested in sociology and continued to study the discipline.

“It really intrigued me,” she said. I stuck around for another semester and I took social problems (class). I was sucked in even more and it was there no going back from there.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in sociology at Saint Joseph University in the mid 90s, Aranda continued her education at the University of Florida, earning her master’s degree in the same major.

During her second year at UF, Aranda started teaching after her professor had quit halfway through the semester. She quickly found out that she enjoyed teaching, especially college students.

Through volunteer work, Aranda felt responsible for making people aware of social problems.

“I really believe in the whole concept of social justice and social change,” she said. “I did a lot of volunteer work because that was my way of trying to make a difference. I thought I can make more of a difference if I teach about it and I can reach more people to convey sort of an understanding of why things are the way they are and how can we change them.”

She also said she has made it her duty to inform people with her research on Latino immigration and immigration policies.

Once Aranda earned her master’s degree, she went back to her alma mater where she spent two years working for the sociology department as adjunct faculty and visiting assistant professor. Then, she went back to UF, working as a visiting professor after earning a Ph.D., at Temple University in 2001.

The following year, Aranda moved to Miami, teaching at the University of Miami as an assistant professor of sociology for five years.

During her time at UM, Aranda began researching the Latino community in Miami, especially immigrants in the area. That interest has led to her editorials being published in newspapers such as the Miami Herald. Aranda’s research generated into a book called “Emotional Bridges to Puerto Rico: Migration, Return migration, and the Struggles of Incorporation.”

In 2007, Aranda decided to leave UM for USF after learning a teaching position was open.

“I heard a lot of good things about the sociology department,” she said. It seemed like a really great place to work. But when I came to interview here, I really felt the sense of community and that’s not easy to perceive on a short two-day visit, but I left feeling really good about the place.”

Since coming to USF, Aranda has won Professor of the Year award in 2008 and is now researching the Latino community in Tampa and the I-4 corridor.

She is currently working on a book titled, “MultiEthnic Miami: Transnational Living in the Global City.” The book will be release in late 2013 or 2014.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Sociology    
Author: Marc Seide