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Lawyer, doctoral grad works for underserved, vulnerable families

December 12, 2011

A lawyer from Mexico, Francisco Alatorre came to Arizona State University in 1992 with a passion for social and human justice. His research, teaching and work for nonprofit organizations are infused with his belief in the value of every human life and advocacy for the poor, homeless and immigrant populations, particularly women and children.

“I am motivated and inspired by the people who struggle in life due to their vulnerabilities, such as immigrants with undocumented status,” says Alatorre. “I hope that one day they can gain legal status and emerge from the shadows.”

Alatorre received a master’s degree in justice studies from ASU in 1994, then returned in 2002 to begin his doctoral studies. He receives a doctorate in justice and social inquiry this December from ASU’s School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The intervening years were filled with obstacles, including financial challenges and the aftereffects of a divorce, but Alatorre worked unceasingly and never lost sight of his goals for himself and the causes he believes in.

Alatorre has worked full-time throughout his studies, including as a research associate at ASU's Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center and at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, where he managed nine different programs dealing with sensitive populations such as domestic violence victims, homeless, working poor, refugees and undocumented immigrant women.

As a consultant for Chicanos por la Causa Inc., he helped create the Access to Care Summit for Hispanic Youth and co-wrote a grant to fund HIV/AIDS research within the Latino community. He was awarded a fellowship through the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse from the University of Houston for his work on prevention of drug abuse and delinquency among Hispanic youth.a

As a member of the committee “Voices of the Poor,” a political advisory arm of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Alatorre advocated for a just legal policy for undocumented immigrant women and their families, poor families and homeless people. As a result, he was awarded a travel fellowship to confer with congressional representatives in Washington D.C.

In 2010 he became a full time lecturer for ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Programs, where he plans to continue working after graduation. Through teaching, he  hopes to create an awareness of social realities in the world, so that students will develop empathy for those suffering injustice.

Vulnerable women, children and families are of vital concern to Alatorre, and have led to extensive work with other nonprofit organizations.

As a board member of “Release the Fear,” he worked with youth who have suffered through illegal trafficking and other traumatic experiences. With the Kino Border Initiative, he sought to protect and preserve the human dignity of undocumented immigrant women that have been deported to Mexico.

Recently Alatorre designed and developed a program called HOPE/ESPERANZA which serves the legal, social and economic needs of immigrant women and their families in Maricopa County.

Teaching and leadership have led to recognition and praise, including the Wakonse Teaching Fellowship and a nomination by his students for ASU’s Teaching Excellence Award. He graduated from both years of the Graduate College’s Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program as preparation for a future in teaching.

In addition to academic achievements such as publications and conference presentations, Alatorre has received two professional leadership fellowships through the Center of Progressive Leadership and the Arts and Business Council of Greater Phoenix.

For Alatorre, graduation is a cause for celebration as well as recognition of responsibility.

“By having the privilege of an advanced education, I am able to understand the challenges and concerns of a growing population in this country that is unable to be heard,” he says. “I can raise my voice to help them. My goal is to keep participating in non-profits that implement policies and programs to help these people. By teaching I am creating awareness in others about what these people suffer. By researching and presenting my findings in professional conferences, I can reach people who have the power to change these injustices.”

Michele St George

Publications, Graduate College