UTSA professor becomes 2015 Texas State Poet Laureate

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Many notable, award-winning faculty and students have been a part of UTSA since its inception in 1969.

Some examples include journalists Michelle Beadle (NBC Sports and ESPN), Dayna Devon (Extra); business leaders Roxanne Austin, former president and chief operating officer of DirecTV; and William E. Morrow, founder of Grande Communications.

Accomplished author and associate professor for the UTSA College of Education and Human Development Carmen Tafolla joins the ranks of UTSA’s greats as she serves as the 2015 Texas State Poet Laureate.

Tafolla was inducted at the Texas State Capitol in Austin May 7 at a special resolution ceremony for the induction of all Texas State Artists. She joined the ranks of Pulitzer Prize winning authors and writers that have merited the title of State Poet Laureate.

Unlike national poet laureates, who receive a $35,000 stipend with the honor, state poet laureates are not paid. Instead, they serve a similar task: to seek to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry and the arts.

Since 1932, the state of Texas has appointed a State Poet Laureate for a one-year term. The city of San Antonio has created a similar distinction.

In April 2012, Tafolla was appointed to be the city’s first poet laureate. She served a two-year term from 2012 to 2014.

Twice honored by the U.S. Library of Congress, Tafolla, a native San Antonian, grew up on the city’s west side. While attending junior high school, her principal told her that she had the potential to get to high school, though not to finish. However, Tafolla completed high school, earned a B.A. in 1972, an M.A. in 1973 and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in Austin in 1982.

As an associate professor in UTSA’s Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies, Tafolla published more than 20 acclaimed books of literature and poetry.

Her works have made their way into high school and university textbooks, newspapers and magazines across the world.

Her book “The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans,” won the Tomás Rivera Children’s Book Award in 2009 and has been published in English, German, French and Bengali.

“Whenever you receive an honor or professional opportunity, you also receive a responsibility to turn that creative energy into a positive recharging of the community,” said Tafolla in an interview with UTSA Today.

“I accept the honor not for me, but for what it can do for others,” Tafolla stated.

Tafolla currently teaches at UTSA as associate professor for Transformative Children’s Literature while also working on the biography of Emma Tenayuca, a noted 1930s civil rights organizer.