SSW Students, Faculty to Partake in 2010 Puerto Rican Experience

in Faculty, SSW in the Media, Students
March 24th, 2010

For three weeks this spring, a group of School of Social Work students will add the “Puerto Rican Experience” to their Boston University experience. Through collaboration with the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Assistant Professor Luz López will lead public health social work students on a three-week cultural immersion program that provides an overview of public health social work practice in Puerto Rico, with implications for service provision to Latinos in the continental United States.

“Our goal is to understand the similarities and differences in public health social work responsibilities between health care practitioners in Puerto Rico and the mainland United States,” said López. “Students will have the opportunity to articulate public health social work approaches to prevention and treatment with Latinos in Puerto Rico compared to the continental U.S.”

During their stay, students will engage in analysis of social, economic and cultural aspects that influence the mainland Puerto Rican population, with a focus on public health approaches to assessment, program development, evidence-based practices, and community-based research. 

“Puerto Rico opened my mind and gave me a new framework with which to view social work,” said Katie Pratt (SSW ’08), who traveled to Puerto Rico in 2008. “I met so many interesting, resilient, and dynamic people during interviews and I carry their faces with me as I continue in this profession. My day to day social work practice has already markedly shifted to incorporate the ideas I was exposed to in Puerto Rico.”

Now in the program’s fifth year, coursework will emphasize social justice issues and examine implications for culturally responsive public health social work practice, including lectures and field visits to public health and social service agencies, including HIV/AIDS and substance abuse prevention/treatment health care program, and a Spanish language component that focused on helping students develop conversational skills for use within the public health social work context. 

This year, students will partner with three local agencies and engage in data collection; the focus will include quantitative interviews with an active Puerto Rican IDU (injecting drug user) population about sexual risk behaviors, substance use, treatment utilization patterns, and protective factors.

“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico,” Pratt said. “I met so many interesting, resilient, and dynamic people, and I will carry their faces with me as I continue in this profession. In the months since I returned to the main land, the experiences still stick with me.”

The 2010 Puerto Rican Experience will run from May 29 – June 21, 2010, and space is still available. For more information, please contact Assistant Professor Luz Lopez at