Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ed.D., is the former Director of the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities at Rutgers and current Director of the Intercultural Center and Advisor to the President on Diversity and Inclusion at Monmouth University.
Born in 1988, she grew up in Long Branch, New Jersey. In the interview, she discusses her experiences growing up in a working-class family, going to public schools, where she excelled academically, and being involved in extracurricular activities such as band. She also notes the influences of extended family members who raised her while her mother was incarcerated.
She went on to higher education at Ramapo College, earning her bachelor's degree in history with a minor in women's and gender studies. At Ramapo, she got involved in the Women's Center, her first exposure to a campus-based identity center, and became the center's queer peer services coordinator. She was active in Ramapo Pride, the Black Student Union and Ebony Women for Social Change. Motivated by Proposition 8 in California and the election of Barack Obama in 2008, she extended her activism beyond the campus. She volunteered at Garden State Equality and organized a busload of students to support the National Equality March in Washington, D.C in 2009.
Deciding upon student affairs and higher education administration as her career path, she earned her master's degree at New York University. At NYU, she interned at the LGBTQ Student Center and Center for Multicultural Education, through which she gained experience exploring the intersectionality of multiple identities in campus-based centers. While in graduate school, she first got involved with the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, an organization that addresses issues of national advocacy and public policy.
Rago-Craft came to Rutgers in 2012 as the Assistant Director of the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities and became the Director in 2013. She embraced the historic LGBTQIA work of the center, along with its foci on intersecting and multiple social justice issues. She expanded existing programs, such as the Safer Space Program and Trans Awareness and Visibility in November. She describes the momentum to take the center to the next level in programming and visibility following the tragedy of Tyler Clementi's suicide. (Read more)
She recognizes the contributions of the professional staff of the center, as well as the student staff members. In the interview, she discusses the center's work related to mental health, housing, accommodations, and chosen names. She traces the development of the LGBTQA Student Emergency Fund. Additionally, she examines the Cultural Center Collaborative consisting of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Center for Latino Arts and Culture, Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, and Asian American Cultural Center. While at Rutgers, she earned her Ed.D. at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.
Drawn to campus-wide work, Rago-Craft went to Monmouth University in 2019 and became the inaugural Director of the Intercultural Center. She also was appointed as the Advisor to the President on Diversity and Inclusion. She explores her roles that are both student-facing and encompassing university-wide policies, practices and structures around equity and inclusion. She analyzes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus life, particularly the disparities existing for students in lower incomes and communities of color.
Other topics addressed in the interview include current public policy impacting LGBTQIA communities, queer identity and marriage equality.
The Rutgers Oral History Archives received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. In the 2021-2022 cycle, this grant assisted the ROHA staff in making this oral history available to you for your use.
Photograph (from left to right): Jenny Kurtz, Cheryl Clarke and Zaneta Rago-Craft, the directors of the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities from 1992 to 2019