Theresa Aragon was born in Northern New Mexico. Growing up in a predominately Mexican American community, she did not encounter white society or racism until she attended elementary school. After high school, she moved to Seattle, where she attended Seattle University and received a B.A. in Political Science in 1965. She would later receive her M.A. in Political Science at the University of New Mexico in 1968. Following finishing her masters’ studies, she returned to Seattle to pursue a PhD degree in Political Science at the University of Washington.
At the University of Washington, Aragon became an active participant in the Chicano Movement on campus, particularly in the struggle for a Chicano Studies program. In 1971, Aragon served as interim director for Chicano Studies. However, she soon left her position in Chicano Studies to become Vice Provost for Special Programs at the University of Washington. Aragon served as Vice Provost from 1971 to 1975. She then became a lecturer for the School of Social Work starting in 1975, and then was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1978. Aragon then left the University of Washington in 1981.
As an active leader in the struggle for Chicano Studies, Aragon was a leading voice in the 1975 Chicano Studies walkout, a strike in which 41 Chicano/a faculty and staff resigned from their positions at the University of Washington, to protest the university’s consistent lack of support of the Chicano Studies program. Aragon also used her position within the university to take a stance on the condition of farm workers’ rights, assisted in the community takeover of El Centro de la Raza, and helped to recruit and retain Chicano/a students at the University of Washington.
A few organizations that Aragon has been a part of outside of the University of Washington are Washington State Governor’s Advisory Committee on Mexican American Affairs, El Centro de la Raza, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Equal Opportunity for Spanish Speaking Americans, the Chicano Education Association, and Active Mexicanos Economic Development Center. Aragon now works at Evergreen University in Olympia, Washington, where she serves as the academic dean of their Extended Education Program.
Theresa Aragon shared her memories in an interview with Maria Quintana and Oscar Rosales Castañeda, January 26, 2009, in her office at Evergreen State College. Video editing by Maria Quintana.