Faculty Profile: Ernesto Todd Mireles, MSW, Ph.D.

January 23, 2019 - By Prescott College

Co-Chairman of the Social Justice and Community Organizing Master’s Program

Ernesto Mireles

Ernesto Todd Mireles serves as the Co-Chairman of the Social Justice and Community Organizing Masters program at Prescott College. He also teaches undergraduate courses in the Cultural and Regional Studies department. A wide variety of experiences in community organizing throughout his professional adult career ultimately led Mireles to Prescott College. His educational journey started at Michigan State University (MSU) 1992 and ended at MSU in 2014 by earning his doctoral degree in American Studies..

In 2010, Tucson public school teachers reached out to Mireles and his Ph.D. cohort colleagues to assist in the fight against banning Mexican-American Studies in public schools K-12 in Arizona. Mireles and his colleagues at MSU was able to raise $20,000 in support of this effort. Mireles also gained support from the classes for which he was an adjunct professor, raising an additional $5,000, and he created an Ethnic Studies Symposium centered around the struggle that was occurring in Arizona. Public school teachers from Arizona attended the symposium and ultimately convinced Mireles to come to Tucson to further assist in their efforts.

In the summer of 2013, Mireles went to Tucson and collaborated with teachers to create a Tucson Freedom Summer convergence of artists, activists, and organizers. At this convergence, he met a professor from Prescott College named Anita Fernandez. Impressed with the community organizing Mireles had done, Fernandez recommended he apply for a teaching position in the Social Justice program at Prescott College. The following summer, Mireles joined the faculty at Prescott College and started building the Social Justice and Community Organizing (SJCO) Masters program into what it is today.

Mireles has enjoyed teaching at Prescott College because, “the students come here already having an activist mindset. It is very rare to find someone on this campus that is completely apathetic about the environment or social justice.” An underlying desire to make a positive difference in the world exists in every student, and Mireles sees this desire, “reflected in the conversations, courses, and work that is done here” at Prescott College.

Mireles has taught a variety of courses such as Community Organizing, Xicano Studies, Critical Human Rights, Anti-Racist Organizing. What makes this program at Prescott College different from other colleges is the fact that, “students get involved in actual campaigns that are currently happening” rather than fictional scenarios. Last year, students collaborated with Restaurant Opportunities Center United in the “Fight for 15”, raising the minimum wage in Flagstaff, Arizona. This year, students joined efforts with Sonoran Prevention Works to alleviate the Hepatitis C and HIV epidemic by pushing to legalize clean needle exchange. Mireles has enjoyed working with “such an amazing group of young and upcoming organizers”.

Mireles has played a key role in transforming Prescott College into a more accepting and thriving environment for students of color. As a Xicano first-generation college student, Mireles “feels very strongly that students of color should have access to higher education.” When Mireles first started teaching at Prescott College five years ago, the retention of students of color was very low. Through his nephew Otis Bowers, Mireles was able to connect with these students and ask them what they needed in order to thrive. Once basic organizing principles were applied, the creation of the Frantz Fanon Center, Black Student Union, Mi Familia, CHIWA, and Prescott Asian Pacific Islander Student Union helped build a supportive community on campus. In the five years Mireles has taught at Prescott College, he has noticed the percentage of students of color grow from less than 5% to over 30%. He is happy to announce that this percentage is still growing.

Mireles’ first goal is to encourage students to “reject simplification and embrace complication. It is important that students think critically about the world around them because things are not always what they seem.” His second goal is to, “help students become the organizers and activists that they want to be. We are trying to equip students with the tools they need to critically analyze and mobilize.” Mireles is proud of the direction Prescott College is going with the stewardship of President John Flicker and is excited to see what the future holds.