New Faculty – Dr. Maria Y. Rodriguez

Dr. Maria Y. Rodriguez joined the Silberman School of Social Work faculty in Fall 2016 as an Assistant Professor. Prior to joining Silberman, Professor Rodriguez earned her doctorate at the University of Washington School of Social Work (Seattle, WA) in June 2016.

Dr. Rodriguez’s research focuses on the relationships between housing (in)security and inequality in America. Her dissertation project investigated housing security outcomes among Latino families in the Pacific Northwest participating in a federally-sponsored foreclosure mitigation program, National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC). In order to develop the most comprehensive insights, she used three distinct methods of analysis: spatial analysis of Washington State’s 2008-2013 foreclosure data; cutting-edge computer-aided discourse analysis of Congressional and Senate hearing records pertaining to NFMC; and statistical analysis of large datasets covering NFMC’s implementation in one predominantly Latino Washington State community.

The approach Dr. Rodriguez took with her dissertation reflects her ongoing enthusiasm for tracing social policy across its multiple levels and spheres of impact – what she calls “the 10,000-foot view all the way down to the individual view.” In all her work, she aims to illustrate the links between policymakers’ assumptions and expectations and the effects their policies have on vulnerable households. Dr. Rodriguez is a highly accomplished young scholar, whose multi-dimensional research has broken ground at the intersection of data science, social policy, and social welfare practice.

This intersectional perspective guides Dr. Rodriguez in the classroom and the field as well. “Social work,” she says, “is founded on the idea that capitalist economies fail certain communities, so communities must be engaged actively by social work practice.” When engaging closely with communities, she elaborates, “all aspects of practice affect one another.” She ensures that her students can “appreciate the continuum: how the individual clinical level affects community organizing; community organizing affects structural policy; back again; etc.”

In her teaching and her ongoing research agenda, Dr. Rodriguez also eagerly seeks to “partner with technology” as a way to “scale up the level of analysis social work is capable of and bridge the gap between present expertise and the ‘grand challenges’ [we aim to tackle].”

Dr. Rodriguez traces her commitment to vulnerable populations, especially low-income Latinos navigating the housing system, to her early social service experiences as a field organizer in Philadelphia. There, she learned the importance of working with communities in all their complexity to achieve their articulated goals. She also traces it even further back, to her childhood not far from Silberman in Upper Manhattan, witnessing her own loved ones struggle to obtain and secure good housing.

Dr. Rodriguez is thrilled to be part of the Silberman community, where she teaches social policy and community organizing to MSW students. “I was born at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital,” she says, “and I was raised on 136th Street, so coming to Silberman is like coming home. I have admired the integrity Silberman has exhibited over the years around community, advocacy, and democracy. I am so pleased to be coming to a social work program that has been the social justice standard-bearer.”

The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College is so pleased to have Dr. Maria Rodriguez on the faculty.