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Latina/o/x Initiatives for Service, Training, and Assessment (LISTA) Certificate

Program Information

The MSW Certificate in LISTA aims to meet the need for social work practitioners trained in issues and contexts specific to Latina/o/x populations. You’ll learn to adapt evidence-based interventions and assessments for social work practice with Latina/os. In addition, you will learn about new models of culturally informed practices with Latina/os. The LISTA Certificate program builds these skills through real-world experience:

  • LISTA requires four courses to provide education on effective, culturally responsive social work practice:
    • Latinos: Culture, Community, and Social Welfare
    • Social Work Practice with Latinos
    • Advanced Clinical Practice: Behavioral Health with Latinos (required for students with a clinical specialization)
    • You may choose from an approved list of electives as your final course (or final 2 courses if a student with a MAP specialization).
  • Practicum Learning Placements in Latina/o/x serving agencies
  • Experiential learning through opportunities to study abroad in Latin American countries
  • Access to a community of alumni professionals for mentoring relationships through the LISTA Links mentoring initiative


This program in Latina/o/x social work practice can be pursued by students:

Whether you earn your MSW online or in person, the LISTA Certificate extends your social work training and enables you to gain practical experience in providing service to Latina/o/x communities.

MSW Certificate Program Curriculum

The Latina/o/x social work certificate program consists of four courses in addition to your MSW requirements. Depending on your MAP or CSW specialization track, you’ll take courses that build skills relevant to your future career.

Social Work Practicum Learning Placements Serving Latina/o/x Communities

If you earn a LISTA social work certificate alongside your Master of Social Work, you’ll spend your practicum learning placement working for an approved agency that serves Latina/o/x populations.

Through your LISTA-specialized practicum learning education, you’ll gain hands-on experience developing your ability to engage with Latina/o/x individuals, families, and groups. You’ll also put into practice social work interventions or initiatives that aid the Latina/o/x community, interpreting the impact of sociopolitical and cultural factors while acknowledging clients and communities as experts of their own lived experiences.

LISTA Social Work Certificate Scholarships

In addition to paid assistantships and financial aid offerings through the School of Social Work, students in the LISTA Certificate program can compete for various annual scholarships and stipends.

LISTA Application Fee Waivers

A limited number of application fee waivers are available for prospective MSW students who plan to pursue the LISTA MSW certificate. To be considered for this $70 application fee waiver, please complete the following steps:

  1. Submit your MSW application prior to the 2024 priority deadline. Do not pay the application fee at the time of submission (we are unable to reimburse paid fees).
  2. After submitting your application, email the SSW Office of Admissions at Include your name and confirmation that if admitted to Rutgers MSW, after enrollment you plan to apply to the LISTA certificate program (only for new students starting in a Rutgers MSW program in Fall 2024).
  3. Receive confirmation of your $70 MSW application fee waiver.
Three girls laughing
Three girls laughing

Apply to the LISTA MSW Certificate

Rutgers’ LISTA Certificate program advances and demonstrates to future employers your effectiveness and breadth of experience working with Latina/o/x populations as a social work practitioner. Review MSW application requirements to get started and contact Elsa Candelario at with questions.

  • The application period varies for prospective students interested in earning an online MSW with a LISTA certificate. When you apply to the Blended or 100% Online MSW, indicate your interest in LISTA, and the program director will provide application information separately.
  • For current Traditional MSW or Blended MSW program students entering advanced practicum learning the following year, the application period begins in the fall.
  • Advanced Standing MSW candidates can apply to the LISTA Certificate program in the spring.

Applications to the LISTA Certificate program are being accepted from new, incoming students beginning the Traditional (on campus) MSW program or Blended MSW program in Fall 2024. The application will be open through April 15. The link to the application is

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Girl typing

As a certificate, LISTA requires four courses: 

[549]: Latinos: Culture, Community, and Social Welfare
[503]: Social Work Practice with Latinos
[568]: Behavioral Health with Latinos (required for LISTA students with a clinical specialization)

You may choose from one (or two if in the MAP specialization) of the following courses:

[543]: Social Work Practice with Immigrants and Refugees
[546]: Spanish for Social Workers
[544]: Poverty, Inequality, Discrimination & Public Policy
[545]: Global Social Work and Social Development
[585]: Advanced Contemporary Policy: Economic Justice for Families and Communities
[594]: Environmental Justice and Social Work
[576]: Puerto Rico: Compounding Disasters and Community Resilience (spring elective with embedded study abroad over spring break)
[5XX]: Study Abroad to Mexico (over winter break)

Browse the list below for descriptions of each required course or download a copy of LISTA's curriculum at-a-glance to understand how these courses will fit within the MSW program and in a suggested order to take them. Students will also participate in select practicum learning placements, view the LISTA Practicum Learning Goals

Students in the 100% Online and Blended MSW programs follow a similar curriculum but course offerings may vary based on availability and demand. Students will receive specific course registration information from their academic advisor.

Course Descriptions

  • This course examines aspects of service delivery to Hispanic populations at both the macro and micro levels.  Students will develop knowledge about aspects of Latino culture that are relevant to the development of cultural competency.  They will develop skills in providing evidence-based culturally relevant practices in services to this group.

  • This course provides an overview of Latino peoples in the United States.  It examines concepts and theories that apply to ethnicity, racial and social identity, and acculturation as they apply to the various Hispanic groups in the United States.  It begins with brief histories of the major Hispanic groups and the political and social forces that provided the impetus for their location/relocation here.  It continues with the cultural similarities and differences among the groups.  Also to be discussed, the current social and economic condition of Hispanics and specific problems related to their status in the United States. and implications for social work.  In addition, a model of viewing Hispanic identity will be presented as a basis for social work assessment and intervention. 

  • This course will examine advanced social work practice with Latinos. Emphasis is on the application and adaptation of evidence-based interventions with Latino/a/x survivors of abuse and trauma, individuals with substance use disorders and/or mental illness, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ . The course analyzes the impact of immigration and migration as well sociopolitical and cultural factors on social work practice with Latinos.

    View the syllabus here

Community Advisory Board

The Rutgers School of Social Work maintains a community advisory board for its LISTA Certificate Program. Board members play a critical role in ensuring the LISTA curriculum reflects the dynamic needs of the Latina/o/x communities and continues to grow the skills of culturally responsive social work practitioners. 

  • Dr. Sheila Borges Rajguru is Director, Research Development & Strategy at Rutgers. She leverages her multi-disciplinary 15+ year training to enhance the SSW’s sponsored programs enterprise. At Rutgers University (B.A.) and NYU (M.S.), she worked on microbiology/immunology research prior to earning her doctoral degree from Columbia University, Teachers College in K-12 STEM education. There she co-developed and implemented an intervention on how to (re)build trusting relationships between teachers and their culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse students using social capital theory as a framework. Previous positions include working as a STEM Educator/Faculty preparing the next generation of scholars, providing professional development to international educators, and serving as an engineering education investigator and program director on federal, corporate, and foundation grants.

    Dr. Borges Rajguru also has served as a federal panel reviewer. Furthermore, she is an executive board member for the Northeast Association for Science Teacher Education, and has been interviewed by ABC News & 5T Jewish Times. Dr. Borges Rajguru is an invited keynote, national, and international speaker in the areas and intersection of STEM, K-12 and higher education, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.

  • Dr. De La Cruz, BA in Political Science (Rider University), MSW (Rutgers University), and DSW (Rutgers University), is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in NJ. She completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy at The Multicultural Family Institute, Inc. in Highland Park, NJ. Having originated from an underprivileged background and being a child of an immigrant family herself, Dr. De La Cruz’s education and work has been motivated by her desire to support traditionally underserved populations. Towards that overarching goal, she has worked with Latino advocacy nonprofit agencies. She currently serves as Executive Director for the Latino Action Network Foundation. Her clinical experience includes providing emergency screening of persons in mental health crisis at an inner city hospital, outpatient and in-home child and family therapy, and clinical consultation for nursing homes with primarily Spanish-speaking residents. In addition, she has extensive experience working in the prevention of child sexual abuse by conducting forensic evaluations, individual, group and family therapy at an intensive outpatient program for court mandated youth who have sexually abused and/or have fire setting behaviors. Currently, Dr. De La Cruz coordinates the psychological treatment of child sexual abuse survivors and their non-offending families in Hudson County, NJ. As a Practitioner Scholar, her research interests focus on systemic approaches to the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse, and the healing of intergenerational trauma in families through the use of mindfulness based psychotherapies, play therapy, multi-systemic family therapy, as well as the political empowerment of Latinos in NJ.

  • Alma dedicated her career to addressing racial equity and  social justice as well as supporting grassroots community organizations, systems, and programs. She is an MSW graduate from the Rutgers University School of Social Work and a Licensed Social Worker. Currently, Alma serves as Director of New Jersey Health Initiatives. 

    New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) works to create a healthier, more equitable New Jersey by investing in resident-led community groups and networks, rooted in racial equity, and centered on systems change. NJHI is managed through a collaborative relationship among the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the Community Foundation of South Jersey, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

  • Marlene Laó-Collins is Executive Director for Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton, a faith-based, social impact organization that offers assistance to prevent homelessness, reduce hunger, stabilize people with mental and substance use disorders through integrated health services, address trauma and domestic violence in specialized children and family services, anti-human trafficking program, as well as legal immigration services.  While predominately in Mercer, Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean Counties, there are ancillary programs in Southern New Jersey. Marlene provided leadership during arduous unprecedented times such as the Super Storm Sandy and COVID-19 pandemic.  She and her leadership team remained focused on keeping the doors open for those who count on the services while also ensuring staff safety. 

    Before joining Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Ms. Laó-Collins was director for social concerns for the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy organization for the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey.  In this position she made recommendations to the bishops on public policy issues; testified at legislative hearings; and worked collaboratively with numerous state agencies and statewide advocacy groups on affordable housing, public assistance, poverty, child care, child welfare, health care and immigration. Marlene had 10 years of experience in state government, where she was involved in assisting in the management of state run programs such as Medicaid and welfare, and overseeing reforms in health care access for the poor, public assistance, child care and other programs. 

    Ms. Lao-Collins served on numerous boards: Trenton Board of Education, NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness; St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton; the NJ Regional Equity Coalition; the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ; and the NJ Immigration Policy Network. She was co-founder and member of the Mercer County Hispanic Association and the Latina Women’s Council. She currently serves as Vice Chair on Catholic Charities USA Board of Directors and on the Board of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Hamilton.  

    Marlene’s greatest blessing was to be married to Michael Collins for 36 year, before he passed away May 4, 2019 and to be mother to two sons, Eric Michael and Abraham Francis.

    She earned a B.A. in Business Administration from Rutgers University in New Brunswick and honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service from Georgian Court University (2021)

  • Elisa Neira-Hamada is Senior Director of Health Equity for the Connecticut State’s Office of Health Strategy (OHS). In her role, Neira focuses on advancing policies, programs and initiatives that reduce health disparities, address social determinants of health and increase healthcare quality and equitable access for vulnerable communities.

    Before joining OHS, Neira was Deputy Commissioner for Social Services at the New Jersey Department of Human Services, overseeing the Division of Family Development, the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Office of New Americans. Under her leadership, the Department expanded access to food assistance for families, children and college students; made significant investments in making childcare more affordable; boosted and expanded support for deaf, blind, visually impaired and deafblind individuals; and focused efforts to make New Jersey communities more inclusive for individuals with disabilities. During her tenure, Neira-Hamada led the launch of New Jersey's first State Office of New Americans to support immigrants and refugees through legal services programs, language access expansion, and outreach and education.

    Before joining state government, Neira worked in local government as Director of Human Services in Princeton administering income-assistance and emergency housing services. She played a key role in leading Princeton’s welcoming community efforts and was recognized for her work in building positive relationships between police and immigrant communities. Neira also led the development and implementation of Princeton’s first Community Needs Assessment to identify needs and service gaps of low-to-moderate income households.

    Neira’s professional experience also includes working with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in community residential and day program settings and deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually-impaired and deaf-blind individuals. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and Spanish Translation and Interpreting from Rutgers University and a Master of Social Work from Fordham University. She is a former Welcoming America fellow; serves on the board of the Rutgers School of Social Work Latino Initiatives for Service, Training and Assessment (LISTA); and the West Hartford’s Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

    A native Spanish speaker, she was born in Ecuador and raised in Salem County. She now resides in West Hartford, Connecticut with her family.

  • A graduate from Rutgers University with a BA in Psychology; Attended New York University where she received her Master Degree in Clinical Social Work; Received her Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work from the International University for Graduate Studies.

    She has been an employee of PROCEED for the past 31 years.  She has been a director for several programs including the pre-school programs, Child Abuse Prevention, Youth Counseling, Differential Response, Outreach to Adolescents at Risk and the Substance Abuse Programs. She has 36 years of experience working with families, children, and adolescents.  Areas of expertise include domestic violence, child sexual abuse, family therapy, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and clinical supervision.

  • Katty Rivera the Project Coordinator and Education and Training Specialist for the Northeast and Caribbean Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, housed at Rutgers University School of Health Professions, Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions. Her mental health experience comes from managing treatment teams in large community-based behavioral health organizations tasked with the coordination of services for people with serious mental illnesses in employment and housing programs. She also has presented professional training programs and managed large community-based events. Currently, presents on Cultural Considerations for Mental Health Services within the Latino Community and Trauma-Informed Care through the Latinx cultural lens and has provided Suicide Prevention training in Spanish for behavioral health providers in Puerto Rico.

    Katty also participates in national workgroups with other federal regions MHTTCs across the country in behavioral health initiatives and the promotion and implementation of evidence-based practices. Her research interests include acculturation and biculturalism and its impact on mental health, Trauma-Informed Care, provider self-care, compassion fatigue and burnout prevention.

    She is the Advisory Board Co-chair for the Rutgers University Center for Latino Arts and Culture and a member of the Rutgers University Alumni Association Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and is also a past RUAA Board Member. She is an alumna from Rutgers University- Livingston College and Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.

  • Raymond Sanchez Mayers is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Work and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies.

    Dr. Sanchez Mayers is the founder and former director of Latino/a Initiatives for Service, Training, and Assessment (LISTA). The goal of this certificate in the M.S.W. program is to prepare social workers to provide services in a culturally sensitive manner to Hispanic populations, individual, family, and community. It was developed to meet the needs of Latinos in the State of New Jersey and beyond. Courses offered through the certificate program, along with internships in Hispanic-serving agencies provide the background, knowledge, and skills to work with this expanding population. He has authored four books, including Hispanic Substance Abuse and Financial Management for Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. His work has appeared in Journal of Family Relations, Journal of Drug Issues, Children and Youth Services Review, Prevention Science, and other publications. He has also presented papers at many professional conferences on issues related to Latinos.

    Dr. Sanchez Mayers received the Rutgers School of Social Work’s Innovative and Creative Teaching Award in 2017 as well as the Sage/CSWE 2017 Commission on Research Faculty Award for Innovation in Research Instruction.

    On a personal note, Dr. Sanchez Mayers plays chess online and is one of the top 100 correspondence chess players in the U.S.

  • Almirca Santiago, is a nonprofit management leader with over 15 years of experience dedicated to strengthening and building capacity to address the needs of Hispanics and immigrant communities.   Currently she is the Assistant Vice President for Grants and Operations at the Hispanic Federation (HF), the nation’s premier Latino nonprofit membership organization with offices along the east coast and Puerto Rico.  For over 6 years, she has held roles that are key to the organization’s expansion, operations, compliance/risk management, government contracting, capacity building and grantmaking.  Most recently, she has led the management and distribution of over $18 million in emergency recovery grants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    For almost a decade, prior to her work at HF, Almirca managed special projects at the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR), a local grassroots non-profit.  She managed annual Get Out the Vote initiatives as well as the Census 2010 campaign, in addition to overall program development, fundraising and efforts to improve organizational structures. With extensive knowledge of NMCIR’s policy campaigns, she was often a spokesperson for pressing community issues, appearing on local and national media, both print and television.

    Almirca holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations with a concentration on Human Rights from Syracuse University and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Baruch College School of Public Affairs. She is a native New Yorker and is fluent in English, Spanish and proficient in French.