Zayas appointed new School of Social Work Dean

Jennifer Berke

UT’s School of Social Work appointed Luis Zayas to serve as its new dean beginning next semester.

Zayas was chosen as the new dean of the School of Social Work because of his national prominence in the field and because he has all of the strong personal characteristics the University wants and needs, said Provost Steven Leslie.

“He’s a very distinguished scholar and a nationally prominent leader in social work,” Leslie said.

Zayas began his career as a practicing social worker in inner city communities in New York but eventually started going back and forth between community practice and academia.

“One of the most enriching aspects of my career was to move between practicing through community help centers and educating students,” Zayas said.

Zayas is also founding member and director of the Center for Latino Family Research at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, said Andrea Campetella, program manager for the center.

“He is very dedicated to producing research to meet the needs of Latino families and in training scholars interested in Latino issues,” Campetella said.

The goals at the Center for Latino Family Research include working with Latino families to research economic, social and health problems they face and how to approach fixing them, according to its website.

Zayas’s desire to continue contributing to students’ education led him to accept the offer of the dean’s position for the School of Social Work at UT.

“The School of Social Work is a great school at a great university, surrounded by very successful and forward-thinking colleagues, and to be a part of that winning team was one of those opportunities that you couldn’t walk away from,” Zayas said.

He said he wants to continue to build up the School of Social Work’s already great legacy and to help the school continue to grow in stature and research.

“I first want to learn the culture of the school and of the people and look at ways we can take the school further,” he said. “And then I want to maintain, if not enhance, the national prestige of the school.”

While Zayas’ focus will be on the School of Social Work, he also hopes to make as many links as he can within Austin and Central Texas communities in need and work through social work institutions to help them.

“My expertise on families of low-economic status has developed over the years, and I want to continue developing and researching,” Zayas said.

Zayas said he has always kept an open door for students and faculty and tries to interact with students as much as possible.

“They bring the most dynamism to the school,” Zayas said. “Students should know they can call my office or visit me in person. Getting to know the students’ perspective is very important.”

Printed on Thursday, September 29, 2011 as: 'Distinguished Scholar' named dean of social work