Pioneer Power

Rosa Alcala ’91

Rosa Alcala ’91 describes herself as a “working class kid” who grew up in the Riverside section of Paterson. Today she is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and writes poetry.

Many of her poems capture memories of what it was like growing up in the city as the daughter of Spanish immigrants. Neither of her parents finished high school. Her father worked in a dye house factory in Paterson; her mother also worked in various factories in the city, doing mostly assembly line work.

Alcala recently published Undocumentaries, a book of poetry that she started writing when she was hired at the university in 2004, her first job after obtaining a Ph.D. “How do you document how you feel when you’re the daughter of factory workers? It was a huge shock to suddenly have an academic lifestyle so different from the way I grew up,” she says. The poems are a dialogue about who she is now, as a professor, and the world she came from.

After graduating cum laude from William Paterson, Alcala earned an M.F.A. in poetry from Brown University. She went on to obtain a Ph.D. in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

At the University of Texas, Alcala teaches courses in poetry writing, creative writing, and Latin American and Spanish poets. In her spare time, she translates poetry and literature, including works by Latin American women writers.