Associate Professor, Department of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice Director, BSW Program
Director, BSW ProgramJoined USJ: 2009
A Passion and A Career
Nelly Rojas Schwan is passionate about the social work values — especially social justice and respect for the dignity and worth of a person — which underline her commitment to the provision of culturally relevant services and attention to the needs of vulnerable populations. She believes that the theoretical foundation of the profession provides the basis for competent and ethical practice to improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.
Her arrival in academia came after an extensive career as a practitioner and administrator — experience that informs her academic work as she nurtures students’ development as culturally sensitive and affirming professionals. While at the Village for Families and Children, she was instrumental in successfully recruiting professionals reflective of the population being served, and now at USJ, she actively supports efforts to respond to the educational needs of the Latino community.
Integrating Knowledge, Practice & Values
Rojas Schwan stresses the importance of professional values as essential underpinnings of the practice of social work, enriched by scientific knowledge and application of theory. Students receive rigorous training, along with support and encouragement in their professional journeys. That nurturing environment, helping students to flourish as they recognize their potential and develop their own talents and commitment to the profession, is ever-present. She believes the required internships provide the opportunity to “integrate the realities of practice with the academic knowledge and provide students with opportunities to live the values of the profession and develop the skills for meaningful and effective practice,” essential elements in their unfolding careers. Cultural competence is weaved throughout the curriculum, Rojas Schwan points out, and the internships are powerful in validating its importance in social work practice.
Because her youth was spent in Colombia in South America, her heritage provides a global perspective, affording the opportunity to explore with her students the varying environments that can influence working with individuals of different backgrounds and cultural perspectives. She is an active contributor to the evolution of her professional discipline, devoting attention to best practices, and working with the National Association of Social Workers, at national and state levels, and coordinating the Latino network mentoring program, demonstrating the significance of culturally attuned supports for professional advancement.
Ph.D., Smith College
M.S.W., University of Connecticut
B.A., University of Hartford