Luis H. Zayas, Ph.D.

Luis H. Zayas, Ph.D.

Dean and Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy

Luis H. Zayas is dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy. Zayas is the sixth dean in the history of Steve Hicks School of Social Work. He also holds an appointment as professor of psychiatry at the Dell Medical School of The University of Texas at Austin.

As a national leader, Zayas is currently president of the St. Louis Group for Excellence in Social Work Research and Education, which represents the leading research schools of social work. In 2012, he was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. In 2017, he was elected to the Executive Board of the Academy. Previously, Zayas held the position of member-at-large of the executive committee of the National Association of Deans and Directors of schools and programs in social work.

Before joining UT Austin, Zayas was the inaugural Shanti K. Khinduka Distinguished Professor of Social Work and Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. Zayas also held social work faculty appointments at Columbia University, Fordham University, and Washington University, and a family medicine faculty appointment at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has lectured to university audiences in Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

A native of Coamo, Puerto Rico, Zayas received his BA from Manhattan College in economics and liberal arts. He received an MS in social work and MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees in developmental psychology from Columbia University. He began his social work career in New York City as a clinician in social service agencies, general and pediatric rehabilitation hospitals, and mental health and primary care clinics in the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. Zayas directed a therapeutic nursery in the South Bronx where he also supervised clinical staff. He is proud to say that he remains an active practitioner today through his evaluations of immigrant children and families facing deportation, and refugee and asylum-seeking mothers and children held in immigration detention centers.

Zayas is the author of Latinas Attempting Suicide: When Cultures, Families, and Daughters Collide (Oxford, 2011), which is based on his decades of clinical and research experience with Hispanic families and children. He is regularly sought out to speak to professional and lay audiences on this topic and is frequently cited in the news media.

He is also the author of Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making of American Exiles and Orphans (Oxford, 2015), a book about the plight of U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants who live under the constant threat of deportation or have been deported.  Forgotten Citizens received the 2016 Book Award Honorable Mention by the Society for Social Work and Research book award committee, and was runner up for the 2016 Hamilton Book Award.

In 1993, Zayas was honored by the American Family Therapy Academy with the “Economic and Cultural Diversity Award” for his work with AIDS orphans and their families. In 2007, he was given the Distinguished Faculty Award at Washington University in St. Louis.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Professional Interests

Adapting interventions for diverse ethnocultural families; suicide attempts among young Latinos; child and adolescent mental health; family functioning; advocacy for U.S. citizen-children.


  • Ph.D., Columbia University
  • M.A., M.Phil., Columbia University
  • M.S. (social work), Columbia University



Social Work Building (SSW)


Mailing Address

The University of Texas at Austin
Steve Hicks School of Social Work
1925 San Jacinto Blvd 2.202B
STOP D3500
Austin, TX 78712-0358