Since February 1992, Jose Soto has been responsible for providing
policy and program leadership for diversity in the workforce, fair employment
practices, and working toward creating a work/educational environment free of
discrimination and bias.
His title at Southeast Community College may have changed – from vice
chancellor for Affirmative Action and Equity to vice president for
access/equity/diversity – but Soto’s responsibilities have remained consistent
during his three-decade-long career. He’s a member of the SCC Administrative
Team, and his duties span all SCC locations “addressing various aspects of the
diversity and inclusion dynamic.”
“Most of the changes have been at the
system/institutional level and related to growth,” said Soto, 73. “More
employees, more locations, more diverse student body, and more diversity in the
communities we serve. Functionally, changes in federal law such as Title
IX, emerging civil rights challenges such as LGBTQ issues and ‘Black Lives
Matter’, changes in College leadership, and changes in political
administrations at the state and federal levels have impacted the sum and
substance of my position.”
Soto has worked for four SCC presidents during his
Born in Puerto Rico
Soto was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and raised in
Lares, a small town in the western mountainous region of the island. His
father was in the U.S. Army, and his mother cared for Jose and his sisters at
“We grew up in an extended family, interacting daily
with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins,” Soto said.
When he was six his father was stationed in Germany.
The family moved to Heidelberg and lived there three years.
“That’s where we all learned to speak English, in
addition to conversational German,” he said.
To the States in 1958
Soto and his family arrived in the U.S. in late 1958.
His father was stationed at Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the
family followed. After Arkansas, moves to Fort Hood (Killeen, Texas), Fort
Riley (Junction City, Kansas) and to The Presidio (San Francisco, California)
As a pre-teen in the late 1950s, Soto was exposed to racial
issues for the first time.
“That was a tumultuous time in the U.S.,
and race seemed to dominate the political and social landscapes,” he said. “The
concept of segregation by race was foreign to us. We did not understand the
rules and expectations related to race. For example, we were confused by
signage in public areas and facilities that designated certain entrances,
seating areas, water fountains, and services for ‘whites’ and others for ‘colored.’ We
soon learned that, while we were ‘brown,’ we were not ‘colored’ and thus could
access facilities and amenities for ‘whites.’ Regardless, my family
typically socialized with other Puerto Ricans of all races, spoke Spanish at
home, and mixed with ‘whites’ only at school.”
Observing National Hispanic
Soto has conducted numerous training sessions on cultural
diversity and education. National Hispanic Heritage Month “provides us an
opportunity to be more mindful of our collective achievements and continuing
“We attend community activities and enjoy
programming on TV that focuses on the Hispanic/Latino experience in the U.S.,”
He has served as a member and advisor to numerous
initiatives, committees and efforts, including the Nebraska Ethnic Minority
Health Coalition, the Minority Health and Human Services Advisory Committee,
the Nebraska Cultural Competency Network, the Nebraska Department of
Corrections Task Force on Hispanic Populations, and the Martin Luther King Jr.
Freedom Breakfast Planning Committee Chair.
Soto also has been appointed to serve on various councils and
committees, including the Nebraska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on
Civil Rights, Washington, D.C.; the Clyde Malone Community Center Board of
Directors; and the University of Nebraska President’s Advisory Council.
The month recognizes achievements and contributions of Hispanic
Americans who have inspired others to achieve success.
“I have mentored others to assist them
navigate through the challenges they face as students, employees and members of
our community,” Soto said.
Soto and his wife of 34 years, Peggy Olson, have
three adult children (Mitchi, Keaton and Cooper) and three grandchildren
(Jelani, Jaymi and Mila).