Clara Pope Willoughby Centennial Professor in Child Welfare and Director of the CSWE Center for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice. Photo by Callie Richmond.

Background: Grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border and is passionate about studying and serving the needs Latino communities

Interests: Population studies focusing on racial and ethnic disparities in health and well-being with an emphasis on Mexican American children and families, poverty, immigration, and applications to social welfare policy development. Areas of practice specialization: policy analysis and community practice

Focus: A few years ago, Yolanda Padilla was involved as co-principal investigator with Dr. Shetal Vohra-Gupta in a research project looking at the needs of the Latino community in Georgetown, which is the county seat of one Texas’ ten counties with the fastest-growing Hispanic populations. The research team, which included undergraduate and doctoral students, found that some of the main issues Latino residents face were lack of public transportation while commuting out of Georgetown to find work. Lack of access to healthcare was another issue that emerged. In some cases community members with whom the team spoke shared they’d gone to the Mexican border to access affordable health care for conditions as serious as cancer. The resulting report was used to make positive changes: the Georgetown Health Foundation, which funded the study, created a community liaison position to learn about the Latino residents’ health needs; Latino residents established a community council to formalize political representation, and the local City Council approved a fixed bus system route. 


  • Favorite spot on campus: The whole campus. Even after 26 years, to me coming into campus in the mornings is like driving into Disneyworld—UT is a place filled with wonder.
  • Favorite part of teaching: When I teach a course that falls on the very first day of college for my students. To celebrate, I bring them homemade brownies and strawberries.
  • Proudest moments: When I receive a surprise email from across the world from a student who I had in class many years ago and they still radiate the idealism I had wished for them.

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