Mural at the School of Social Work by Raul Valdez, 1996
Mural at the School of Social Work by Raul Valdez, 1996

The School of Social Work and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) at The University of Texas at Austin are establishing a dual degree program at the graduate level, the first of its kind in the United States. The dual degree will address the gap in services for U.S. Latinos and Latin American immigrants. Graduates of the three-year program will earn the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) and the Master of Arts (M.A.) with a major in Latin American studies. Students can apply for admission for the fall 2015 semester. More information here.

Graduates of the dual degree program will combine clinical social work skills with cultural and linguistic competency suited to diverse Latino and Latin American immigrant populations in the U.S. and abroad.

Dual-degree students must complete 30 credit hours in Latin American studies and 51 credit hours in social work. In addition, they must meet a language requirement (Spanish or Portuguese) and complete research and internship requirements in a Latin American country.

“Latinos are expected to make up close to one-third of the U.S. population by 2050. This dual degree augments our existing programs, particularly the St. David’s Foundation Bilingual Scholarships, to ensure that more graduates are ready for superb culturally competent social work practice with the growing numbers of Latino clients in Texas and beyond,” said Luis H. Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work.

The need for social workers who speak Spanish and understand the Latino and Latin American immigrant cultures is acute, particularly in Texas, where Latinos are the largest ethnic group. Studies have shown that there is an increasing discrepancy between the growth of minority populations in Texas and the number of social service providers that can meet these populations’ cultural and linguistic needs.

“Partnering with social work advances our central mission to teach deep understanding of Latin America in combination with professional training for the common good,” said Charles Hale, director of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections. “We are thrilled to inaugurate this dual degree at a time when the School of Social Work has deepened considerably its faculty expertise in Latin American and Latino studies.”

Impetus for the dual degree came from various sources, including former LLILAS graduate student Cintia Huitzil. A second-generation indigenous Chicana, Huitzil worked to expand indigenous transnational migrants’ access to social services in Los Angeles before coming to The University of Texas at Austin. Once on the Forty Acres, she collaborated with students from LLILAS, the School of Social Work and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies to collect signatures for a letter proposing the dual degree program.

“I hope that in combining these disciplines, LLILAS and the School of Social Work can foment a more critical and conscientious student body with the theoretical and practical background to best serve the Latinos and Latin American immigrants in this country,” Huitzil said.