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The Critical Race Scholars in Social Work Network is committed to uplifting the voices of students and scholars of color; radical social work practitioners; and community educators and activists. We are also committed to making scholarship relatable, relevant, and accessible.



Originating in legal studies, Critical Race Theory (CRT) centers race in the analyses of societal institutions and social problems. CRT has become prominent in Education and Public Health and is now gaining steam in Social Work. As a field with a commitment to equity and social justice, Social Work is poised to become a leader in CRT as it pertains to social problems, liberatory practice, anti-racism, and student-centered pedagogy.

The Critical Race Scholars in Social Work Network first convened informally in 2019 in a hotel lobby at the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) annual program meeting in Denver, CO USA. ​After assessing and garnering interest from the social work community, the founding members came together to organize the first formal CRSSW Convening was held virtually in 2020.  In 2020 the steering committee expanded to include additional members. ​In addition to a bi-annual convening, the CRSSW network meets regularly to actively engage in the praxis of Critical Race Theory. Learn more about the steering committee below.

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Adriana Aldana, Ph.D., MSW

Founding member, Dr. Adriana Aldana (she, her, hers) is an Associate Professor of Social Work at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Her research examines the effects of social justice education on adolescents' sociopolitical development and its implications for anti-racism and community capacity building. This work has allowed her to identify the processes that promote young people’s ability to think critically about their social identity, systems of privilege and oppression, and inclusive tactics for social action. As a practitioner, she has organized social justice workshops, managed a community-based youth dialogue program, and developed program curricula for multicultural training of K-12 educators and youth.

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Retchenda George Bettisworth, DSW, MSW

Retchenda George-Bettisworth (she, her, hers) is Clinical Professor of Social Work and Statewide BSW Rural Cohort Coordinator, a culturally grounded program for Indigenous, rural and remote students, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. George-Bettisworth received her MSW at University of Michigan, and DSW at St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas. She has been working in the field of social work for over 20 years, focused in the areas of child welfare, work-force retention, and social work education and administration. Dr. George-Bettisworth is committed to providing access to quality higher education for students in rural and remote areas, and culturally relevant practice for all individuals. She co-chairs the BSW CRSSW committee, focusing on ways to incorporate critical race theory within social work programs.


Susan Lares-Nakaoka, Ph.D., MSW, MA

Founding member, Susan Nakaoka (she, her, hers) is Visiting Professor of Social Work and Asian American Studies at California State University, Long Beach. She received her PhD in Urban Planning, her MSW and her MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA. As a third generation Japanese American and Chicana, her family's history in the World War II concentration camps inform her teaching and research. Using a Critical Race Theory lens, her recent research projects include a case study of a Native Hawaiian place- and culture-based non-profit and an oral history project of Asian Americans in the Sacramento River Delta.

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Debora Ortega, Ph.D., MSW

Founding member, Dr. Debora Ortega (she, her, hers) is a Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work and founding director of the Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship, a consortium of interdisciplinary faculty dedicated to creating and advancing knowledge that gives voice to the history, politics, culture and legacies of Latino communities. She joined the faculty of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work in 2005. Prior to her appointment at DU, she was a faculty member in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas. Her scholarship interrogates ways that every day white supremacy affects Latinx communities in the areas of education, immigration, and health. She is a proud first-generation college student and daughter of brilliant parents.


Ebony Nicole Perez, Ph.D., MSW

Founding member, Ebony Perez (she, her, hers) is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and received her PhD from the University of South Florida (USF). She currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Social Work and Undergraduate Department Chair at Saint Leo University. Utilizing qualitative methodologies and critical and race-based theories,her research agenda seeks to understand the nuances and complexities of the role of social work educators in preparing future practitioners for anti-racist praxis. Furthermore, Dr. Perez’s research and scholarship aims to advance inclusive and transformative policies and practices within social work education.


Stacey Chimimba Ault Ed.D., MSW, PPSC

Founding member, Dr Stacey Chimimba Ault (she, her, dr.) is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Social Work at Sacramento State University. Her research focuses on exploring and uplifting the power and beauty of Blackness, rest, resistance, joy and healing.  She has used youth participatory action research to examine the intersection between CRT and Post Traumatic Growth.  Dr. Ault is also founder/CEO of the Race and Gender Equity (RAGE) Project, nonprofit organization that works to harness the power of individual and collective transformation through healing, education, advocacy and research.  In addition to providing consulting and coaching, The RAGE Project provides direct services to Black youth and community members.


Mónica Gutiérrez, Ph.D., MSW

Mónica's (she, her, ella) serves as an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver. Dr. Gutiérrez works at the intersection of social work and policy, employing social work tools to investigate a wide range of macro issues, primarily those directly relating to Latinas/os and neighborhood inequality. Her research is motivated by her intersecting identities as a Mexicana raised near the Mexicali-Imperial Valley border and years spent growing up in California's Central Coast Region. Her interest in community-based methodologies stems from a decade of post-social work experience, which has informed her practical expertise in child welfare, veterans' health, criminal justice, and health promotion. She has a B.A. in Chicano Studies and a minor in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University, as well as an MSW and a Ph.D. in Social Work from Arizona State University.

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Anna Nelson Ph.D., LCSW

Founding member, Anna Nelson (she, her, hers) is a Critical Race scholar, social work professor, mezzo/macro practitioner and Ph.D. candidate. Ms. Nelson’s research interests are: 1) Evidencing a microtheoretical perspective called Critical Trauma Theory (Nelson, 2019); 2) Increasing awareness and skills to eliminate racism, reduce risk for oppression-based, cultural, and collective trauma and uplift the cultural capital and community cultural wealth for Black, Indigenous and Social Work Students of Color (BISOC); and 3) Improving sense of mattering for BISOC through relational cultural pedagogy and praxis. For her work in promoting social justice and equity in education, Ms. Nelson is the recipient of the New Mexico Education Equity Alliance (NMEEA) 2013 Annual Fueling Increasingly Relevant Education (F.I.R.E) Award and the YWCA-NM Women on the Move to Eliminate Racism Award in 2015. For her service at New Mexico State University (NMSU), she received the 2020 NMSU A Mountain Award. She is currently the Online BSW and MSW Coordinator and College Assistant Professor at New Mexico State School of Social Work.

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Larry Ortiz, Ph.D., MSW

Founding member, Larry Ortiz (he, him, his) is Professor of Social Work in the Department of Social Work and Social Ecology, Loma Linda University, where he also serves as Director of the Doctoral Programs in Social Work (PhD and DSW). Dr. Ortiz' research and writings have focused primarily on diversity issues in social work practice and education. Most recently his work has focused on applying a postmodern critique of race to social work curriculum and the development of models for practice that incorporate theory, context, narrative and cultural humility in social work practice. He writes primarily throught a Critical Race Students and LatCrit lens.

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Nicole Vazquez, MSW, MPP

Founding member, Nicole Vazquez (she, her, hers) is an Afro-Latinx, queer, cisgender woman of Mexican-American and Panamanian parents. She has over 20 years’ direct practice and administrative experience both in the public and nonprofit sectors. She formerly served as the Field Director and Chair Designee in CSU, Dominguez Hills’ Master of Social Work program. Nicole focuses on the practical application of Critical Race Theory in social work practice, in addition to conducting Critical-Race specific trainings and workshops and providing consultation in organizational development and support through a CRS frame as the Principal at Vazquez Consulting.

Todd Vanidestine, PhD, MSW, MHR

Todd Vanidestine (he/him/his) is an Assistant Professor at West Chester University, Department of Graduate Social Work. His interests include community organizing, anti-racism social work, critical race theory, critical discourse analysis, and racial & ethnic health inequities. Todd’s organizing and academic pursuits are guided by over 20 years of social work practice experience. Todd is committed to co-creating community-learning environments and social change experiences where key tenets of anti-racism, critical race theory, and critical insights from lived experiences serve as the basis to build collective power and strategically challenge oppressive processes that produce dehumanizing outcomes via systems, institutions, and individuals.  

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