Wednesday, July 5, 2023
  Awards and Recognitions

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – JULY 5, 2023 – Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa, LCSW, UTRGV associate dean of Research and Faculty Development and professor in the School of Social Work, recently was honored with the 2023 Gary Lee Shaffer Award presented by the School Social Work Association of America

Sosa was presented with the award March 31 at the annual National School Social Work Conference in Broomfield, Colorado.

In the area of social work, Sosa developed a new practice model grounded in Chicana feminist theory that centers the lived experiences of minoritized youth.

Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa
Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa, Gary Lee Shaffer Award recipient, at the 2023 National School Social Work Conference, held in March in Colorado. (Courtesy Photo)

Her curriculum work included the development of advanced diversity courses that center race, a bilingual practice class and a study abroad in Guatemala course utilizing a human rights and de-colonizing framework.

“The Gary Lee Shaffer Award is a recognition for my contributions to the field of school social work over the course of my academic career,” she said. “I have dedicated my career to serving children and youth in the school setting as a practitioner, researcher and professor.

Sosa said the award helps bring awareness to the essential role of school social workers.

“It will support the development additional curriculum in this area, such as a specialized class or certificate that will allow graduates of the UTRGV School of Social Work to be well prepared for effective social work practice in the schools,” she said.

The Gary Lee Shaffer Award recognizes the significant contributions of a faculty member to the field of school social work.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.