Rutgers School of Social Work initiative seeks to bring culturally sensitive focus for rapidly growing Latino population


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

The two leading ethnic majorities at Rutgers during the 2014 to 2015 school year were Caucasians and Asians, at 43 percent and 26 percent, respectively, according to University-produced statistics. The Latino population was in third place, at 12 percent, but Latinos, as a whole, are swelling rapidly in growth in the United States, with a population of 55.4 million in 2014, and it seems unlikely to slow — the Hispanic population is growing and is expected to reach 28 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050. 

The last statistic, provided by Raymond Sanchez, an associate professor at Rutgers' School of Social Work, is director of the Latino/Latina Initiatives for Service, Training and Assessment (LISTA), a program dedicated to promoting culturally sensitive training for social work students. 

“New Jersey is among the top 10 states with the highest Hispanic populations," said Sanchez, a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the treasurer of the Association of Latina and Latino Social Work Educators. “I have been especially concerned about the low numbers of Latino students and faculty at Rutgers, and in other universities, and have presented papers on this topic.”

LISTA will offer social work practice to students who are specific to Latino/Latina populations to increase understanding of the Hispanic culture, Sanchez said. The program will also provide optional courses on the professional use of Spanish, and offer study abroad programs in Mexico, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

The initiative additionally aims to assist students financially with stipends and scholarships to make a degree from the School of Social Work more affordable to students.

“Many students earn their undergraduate degrees in social work, but never return to complete their master's degree because they can’t afford it," Sanchez said. 

LISTA is a great opportunity for students because it will provide scholarships or stipends for internships to those who become involved, Sanchez said in an email.

The program is only open to bilingual students, but knowing a second language would be useful students, as many Hispanic people in the United States are immigrants and do not speak English fluently.

“Many Hispanic people speak Spanish, so we would like bilingual students, those that can speak Spanish. If you can’t speak Spanish, you wouldn’t be able to help them," Sanchez said.

The School of Social Work is seeking agencies that would offer field placements and stipends for Master of Social Work students who have special training in working with Latino/Latina populations, according to the website for the School of Social Work.

These agencies will provide Masters of Social Work students with real-world experience along with a sense of income.

“The social work profession needs more Hispanic social workers and I am hopeful that LISTA will help create a cadre of culturally sensitive social workers in organizations across New Jersey,” Sanchez said in an email.


Connor McCarthy

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