New Leadership in Department of Education

Nov 8, 2021

Eric Torres, Ph.D., joined CEHSP this fall as a new tenured faculty member and department head.

Associate Professor Eric Torres likes to introduce himself as a teacher and a public education advocate. He has worked in the field of education for more than three decades.

Initially, Torres served as a K-12 teacher and administrator. Over the last decade, he transitioned to teaching in higher education, first at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and more recently at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.

“I have taught within a wide developmental spectrum, in diverse cultural settings, at different levels of formal design, in two different languages, in two different countries, and I have enjoyed it all,” Torres said in his UMD application letter. “Teaching undergraduate students, though, has been the most alluring and challenging experience of all. I think that young adult education is the opportunity not only to engage big ideas in a critical way, but also to engage others and otherness to see and feel how those ideas are embodied, perhaps in ways that most high school graduates have not even considered or experienced before.”

Torres obtained a doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching with a Specialization in Cultural Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He also holds a law degree in Peru, his country of origin.

Prior to moving to the United States in 1999, Torres worked to provide legal advice and leadership to adult education and leadership development programs for grassroots leaders in the Southern Andean area in service to Indigenous peoples.

Jill Pinkney Pastrana, Dean of the UMD College of Education and Human Service Professions, commented on the new hire. “Dr. Torres’ breadth and depth of experience across educational contexts and his vast and varied leadership experience will enhance the capacity of our education department and its programs to serve our students and support our talented colleagues in the work they do. We are very fortunate to have a colleague in this position who brings so much to this role.”

Advocacy for Equity and Inclusion

In his teaching and practice, Torres emphasizes social justice, equity and inclusion as well as critical global learning. He is interested in the “interrelation of power in a global context as reproduced in the classroom and learning environment.”

Torres’ unique perspective is intimately connected to his work and actions. “Both my ethnic background and my additional layer of foreignness have contributed to the special kind of framework and critical pedagogy I use inside and outside the classroom,” he said.

According to Torres, higher education plays an important role in establishing a more equitable, inclusive and just society. “It’s a place where the young and the not-so-young come to not only be exposed to new ideas but to challenge their own ideas—to see and feel how others and otherness are represented.”

When Torres joined the UMD Department of Education, he was impressed that there was already a conversation going on about structural injustices as well as a “strong emphasis on reviewing curriculum to make it more inclusive and equitable and diverse” and he praised his colleagues’ “great awareness about the need to diversify and bring underrepresented voices to the faculty and staff team itself.”

Torres looks forward to engaging in more thoughtful and thorough conversation about such issues and how faculty can model this for students. “My colleagues want change and they are invested in it and they want to be active participants in the process,” said Torres. As department head, Torres will provide leadership for a number of administrative and academic processes. He anticipates there will be some structural changes within the department to support efforts toward equity and inclusion.

Torres came to Duluth with his wife Ronda. He embraces a healthy lifestyle, regularly working out at the fitness center. He also appreciates Duluth’s natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

In his free time, Torres likes to read and listen to classical music—as well as “not so classical music.” One of his favorite things to do is have lunch with students or randomly instigate conversations with students. “I like to hear their perspectives and takes on things,” said Torres.