Faculty spotlight: Welcome new chair, Dr. Lisa K. Zottarelli
Dr. Lisa K. Zottarelli is the new woman on campus and she is just now settling into her job
as chair of Social Sciences & Humanities. Prior to joining San Antonio College in early
September, Dr. Zottarelli was an associate professor of Sociology at Texas
Woman’s University in Denton.
That’s quite the commute because Dr. Zottarelli makes her
home in San Antonio with her husband, Dr. T.S. Sunil, director of the Institute
for Health Disparities Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio; and
their 5-year-old daughter, Amara.
A native of San Antonio, Dr. Zottarelli’s family lived on
the West Side near Woodlawn Lake. They
moved to Austin when she was about 10. Her father is a lobbyist and her mother
is a cook. She adds that her mother attended SAC and was on the tennis team.
When she was 16, Dr. Zottarelli was a high school dropout
and a single mom to twin boys. She later
attended Austin Community College, and received her bachelor’s in criminal
justice from Texas State University with a minor in sociology. Her Ph.D. is in Sociology.
“It took me nine years to get my bachelor’s degree,” she
said. Her master’s and doctorates came
from the University of North Texas where she also met her husband when they
were both graduate students.
“This is all I ever wanted to do – be a professor,” she
said. Science was her first love, but as
a single mom she says she could not put in the lab time necessary. Today her boys Michael and Alexander are 27.
One is a probationary firefighter in Austin and the other is studying
environmental science at A&M Corpus Christi and he teaches surfing.
At TWU Dr. Zottarelli was teaching a combination of
hybrid/online graduate courses where she met once a month with her students.
Dr. Zottarelli said she was ready for “something different.” She is the Chairperson of the Department of Social Sciences which consists of history, anthropology,
economics, political science and humanities. Dr. Zottarelli talked about her long- and
short-term goals as chair. One goal is
to “unify us as a department” and another is to create a faculty handbook for
In 2011 Dr. Zottarelli was a Fulbright/Nehru Scholar and
spent five months in India with her daughter, who attended pre-school
there. Her research projects and papers have been extensive and she has a
17-page curriculum vitae.
“I study a number of things in the U.S. … I study disasters
and their hidden vulnerabilities,” she said. “After Katrina I studied pet
ownership. People who have pet loss are more likely to be separated from their
Dr. Zottarelli says once she gets to know her job and the
faculty, she would like to find a role with students. It has been four years since she was a
regular classroom instructor.
“Students have to believe in themselves,” she said.
“Education is not easy but it is a path worth taking.”
We wrapped up the interview with questions to Dr. Zottarelli
like those posed by Vanity Fair magazine (which are, in turn, taken from the
Where are you the
What is your favorite
place to be?
Sweden – I love
Sweden. I went there for a conference a number of years ago, had no
expectations whatsoever…during the summertime it is green and beautiful, there
is water everywhere, the people are friendly. There is all this space, even
though you are in the middle of a city.
Professor Pnin from
the novel “Pnin” by Vladimir Nabokov. “It struck me when I read the book the
first time and has always been a character that really fascinated me.”
Who is the person you
most admire in others?
most deplore in others?
If you could have a
superhero power, what would it be?