TSC Board Vice Chairman brings years of educational, public service to the board

With more than four decades in higher education, Texas Southmost College Board Vice Chairman Tony Zavaleta has worked on many fronts to improve the quality of life for the Rio Grande Valley community.

From teaching to providing college leadership to engaging in lifelong research and public service, he has made positive changes to better serve the community, as well as the students of TSC, his alma mater.

A fourth-generation Rio Grande Valley native, he is a member of a pioneer family, and was elected to the TSC Board of Trustees in 2016, serving four years as a board member, Secretary, Treasurer and, most recently, Vice Chairman.

“It has always been my intent to serve the college that I love,” said Zavaleta, who earned an Associate of Arts degree from TSC in 1969. “I want to give back to the college and to the community that has given me so much. My goal has always been to make positive changes wherever I can.”

As a TSC trustee, Zavaleta has capitalized upon his vast experience as a faculty member and administrator assisting in reorganizing the board for greater productivity.

His recommendation to establish standing board committees provided an opportunity for board members to dive more deeply into issues brought to the board for consideration.

“We created the TSC Strategic Plan that allows us to function better by providing a roadmap for the future,” he said. “By doing this, we’ve been able to grow TSC to what it is today for our students and our community, the college has recently been reaccredited.”

In addition, Zavaleta has worked hand-in-hand with college leadership to unanimously pass initiatives that include creating relationships with local school districts thus forming TSC’s Dual Enrollment program and he worked with the Texas Legislature seeking legislative authorization allowing TSC to plan for a Bachelor of Applied Technology degree.

“These are momentous initiatives that will have a long-term impact on our students and community,” said Zavaleta. “Imagine the possibilities these opportunities are going to provide.”

Zavaleta added that even though there is still a lengthy process ahead of introducing TSC’s bachelor’s degree, he knows it will change lives.

“Serving as a TSC trustee is an honor I take very seriously,” he said. “And my lifelong goal is to see that we provide opportunities for the education for our entire community.”

Zavaleta has been a dedicated public servant all of his adult life, serving on numerous boards and committees, as well as on the Brownsville City Commission from 1983 to 1991. Additionally, he is a distinguished educator and published author.

After earning his associate degree from TSC, he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied Civil Engineering, shifting to the study of the anthropology of the U.S.-Mexico border.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1971, a master’s degree in 1973 and a doctoral degree in 1976, all in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Zavaleta went on to become a professor of anthropology and sociology at UT-Austin, TSC, Pan American University at Brownsville, the University of Texas at Brownsville/TSC and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).

He served as the first Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at UTB/TSC, later serving as Vice President of External Affairs, Interim Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Retiring in 2014, Zavaleta was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus by the University of Texas Board of Regents. The title is bestowed on retired professors who have made an exceptional contribution in academic leadership, including dedicated achievement to his or her field of study.

He was also awarded the prestigious Ohtli or “pathfinder” award by Mexico, and currently serves as adjunct professor for border studies at El Colegio de Tamaulipas.

“I went into teaching not thinking it would become a lifelong career, but here I am, I never looked back,” said Zavaleta. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s been so rewarding seeing students learn, grow and become professionals in their fields and supporting community endeavors.”

Zavaleta has published more than 100 works in books, textbooks, journals and other educational and popular resources. Most recently, he released his fifth book titled, “Curandero Ethno-Psychotherapy & Curanderismo: Hispanic Mental Health in the 21st Century,” which draws upon 50 years of the study of curanderismo and Hispanic mental health.

The work is an invaluable resource in demonstrating how curanderismo and its methodologies assist in bridging the gap to provide reliable effective mental health services to Hispanic communities.

Zavaleta said his book is receiving positive responses from the health care community.

“I want the world of psychiatry and psychology, and those involved in the treatment of mental health to realize that a large portion of the work that curanderos perform is relevant to the treatment of Hispanic mental health,” said Zavaleta.

Zavaleta is also a noted historian, publishing numerous articles on regional history. For more than twenty years he has served as co-publisher of the Rio Grande Valley Regional History Series which advances little known but important regional history. Driven to participate in advancing his community, Zavaleta said as long as he is healthy, he will continue to serve as an engaged citizen.

“It’s been an honor to serve my community in numerous ways, most recently as TSC trustee,” said Zavaleta. “I plan on seeking reelection at the end of my term as a TSC trustee. I get a tremendous sense of pride serving and knowing that I am making a difference, the work is never done. There is always a new project on the horizon.”