Women’s History Month: Recognizing a trailblazer in higher education

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 3:17 PM CDT
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LAREDO, TX. (KGNS) - With social work being one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States, one Laredo woman made sure her hometown could compete and bring up the next generation of social workers.

Some may call it a thankless career, but social workers are pivotal in any community.

“We can use social work in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, law enforcement you name it, " Dr. Denise Longoria said.

Dr. Longoria has dedicated her life to social work, not only as a professional but as an educator as well.

After earning her master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and working in the field for 11 years, she moved back to Laredo in 1999. She had the purpose to help her profession grow in her hometown.

“We need social work in Laredo,” Dr. Longoria said.  “We need social workers they are so valuable in many different areas.”

She taught social work at  TAMIU for 10 years, but that program closed down in 2010.

Knowing how important this career option is, she embarked on a partnership between Laredo College and UT Rio Grande Valley to offer a bachelor of social work and master’s of science in social work.

“At that time is was the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburgh,” Dr. Longoria said.

“The opportunity was to partner with Laredo College so we can continue a social work program in Laredo. A majority of the courses were via telecommunications and I was the only one teaching face-to-face here.”

After 12 years of that set up, Dr. Longoria wanted more for her students. Toward the end of 2021 she sought to expand the program.

Dr. Longoria was motivated to partner with the University of Texas Education and Research Center at Laredo which at the time was inviting university programs to be housed there.

After securing funding in 2022, it was made a reality.

“Now there are four of us teaching, and a recruiter,” said Dr. Longoria. “Every faculty member we have here has been my student and so has the recruiter. They have all been my students and just watching the growth and seeing how they can take it to the next level has been amazing.”

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