Samuel D. Rocha was born in Brownsville, Texas in 1982. He grew up in a lay Catholic missionary family, moving across the US states of Texas, Utah, Ohio and also living in Reynosa, Mexico. He began playing guitar at the age of five and played at home, church, and prayer meetings.
Rocha attended Franciscan University of Steubenville as an undergraduate, completing a B.A. in philosophy and Spanish literature as a Gates Millennium Scholar in 2005. He recorded his first demo during his undergraduate studies and played in music ministry and at dive bars.
After graduation and marriage, Rocha worked for one year at Transfiguration Catholic School as a Spanish teacher and explored corporate positions at Target and Medtronic for another year while completing an M.A. in Educational Leadership at the University of St. Thomas as a Gates Fellow in 2007. He opened for Floetry (the opener for The Roots), was the bandleader of Chema, and began working as a regular sideman for local bands during this time.
From 2007 to 2010, Rocha completed an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy of education at the Ohio State University as a Gates Fellow. His dissertation, “Education, Study, and the Person,” received the Loadman Dissertation Award. During his studies at Ohio State, Rocha was a regular performing artist at Vonn Jazz Lounge, guitarist for Gruvment and the Worship Center of Central Ohio, and worship leader at Peace Lutheran Church. He also co-led Matias-Rocha y Nueva Trova with Rolando Matias, sharing the stage or billing with Othello Molineaux (Jaco Pastorius), David Hampton (Rick James), Eddie Bayard (Pharez Whitted), Joe Lovano, Eddy Martinez (Ray Barreto and Tito Puente), and others.
From 2010 to 2012, Rocha was appointed the Owen Duston Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Teacher Education at Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He coached the College rugby club to a conference championship and was made an honorary member of the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies. Rocha released Freedom for Love, his first EP, and self-published an anthology of online writings, Things and Stuff, in 2011. In 2012, he published a co-authored chapbook, Poems by Sam and Sam, with Samuel Bennett.
From 2012 to 2014, Rocha was appointed Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations and Research at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 2013, he self-published A Primer for Philosophy and Education. Rocha played with his own band and was the drummer and lead singer for Mojo Filter; he also worked as a sideman with Little Bobby and the Storm.
In 2014, Rocha was appointed Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Education at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. He has also been a Member of the Common Room at Green College and Pastoral Philosopher-in-Residence at St. Mark’s College while at UBC. In 2014, he published the second edition of A Primer for Philosophy and Education with Cascade Books; in 2015 it won the American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Book Award. In 2014, he released Late to Love, an Augustinian soul album, with Wiseblood Records.
In 2015 his book Folk Phenomenology: Education, Study, and the Human Person was published by Pickwick Publications and his essay, “A Tales of Three Cubicles,” won the Outstanding Contribution Award from Visual Arts Research. In 2016, he released Fear and Loving, a soundscape companion album to Folk Phenomenology. In 2017, Rocha published Tell Them Something Beautiful: Essays and Ephemera with Cascade Books and released a single, “A Todo Var.”
Rocha was promoted to Associate Professor and awarded the Killam Teaching Prize at UBC in 2019. At the end of 2019, he released his third full-length album, Anamnesis, and in 2020 he released a single, “The Freedom of Dialectic,” inspired by the life and thought of Maxine Greene. His newest book, The Syllabus as Curriculum: A Reconceptualist Approach, was published in 2020 and received the 2020 Outstanding Book Award from AERA: Division B, Curriculum Studies.
He has served as the president of the Society for the Philosophical Study of Education from 2012 to 2014, editor of the Patheos Catholic channel from 2015 to 2017, Communications Director of the Philosophy of Education Society from 2016 to 2020, book review editor for Studies in Philosophy and Education from 2013 to 2018, and a member of the Theory and History of Education International Research Group since 2015. He is on several editorial boards of academic journals and on the advisory board of Curriculum Studies in Canada. Rocha has also published widely in popular Catholic media including First Things, Commonweal, America, Our Sunday Visitor, The Catholic Herald, and Church Life Journal.
Rocha’s work orbits his philosophical, musical, and religious interests. In contrast to his formal training in academic letters, he is a folk musician, unable to read or write music. This untrained, analphabet sensibility contributes to his fascination with education, schooling, and curriculum. His Texican heritage and ancestry have led to similar and intertwined reflections on race. A lifelong Roman Catholic, Sam’s writing often considers questions of religious identity from a confessional and autobiographical perspective, along with philosophical interventions into theology. His signature notions of pastoral philosophy and folk phenomenology continue to grow and evolve in his writing and teaching. He is committed to preserving and promoting the research and scholarship of the humanities in the field of education.
Rocha has played music and/or lectured in halls and auditoriums, classrooms, church basements and sanctuaries, streets, monasteries, restaurants, bars and clubs, and living rooms all over the world including, The Old Town School of Folk Music (Chicago), Sheen Center for Thought and Culture (New York), Teachers College at Columbia University (New York), New York University (New York), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto (Toronto), The Empire Arts Center (Grand Forks, ND), University of Manitoba (Winnipeg), Saint Thomas University (Fredericton), Depauw University (Greencastle, IN), Seattle Pacific Art Center (Seattle), University of Bergen (Norway), University of Wisconsin-Madison, and many more. He performs regularly at The Wolf and Hound in Kitsilano with his trio.
Rocha and his wife, Anne, have three children, Tomas, Gabriel, and Sofia, and are parishioners at St. Mark’s Catholic Church.