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Alum Lillian Ortiz, Named GCSW Director of Innovative Academic Programs and Partnerships


September 23, 2021

(HOUSTON, TX) - The Graduate College of Social Work recently named Lillian Ortiz (MSW '07) to Director of Innovative Academic Programs and Partnerships.

This role will oversee "multiple programs within the GCSW, including the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance program, Dual Degree programs, focused learning opportunities, and other innovative academic programs that support holistic student learning."

We asked Lillian Ortiz to share what the past year has been like and what she hopes to achieve in this new role. 


Name: Lillian Aguirre Ortiz
Preferred Pronouns: she/her/hers
Graduation Year from the GCSW and Program: MSW '07
Current Position: Director of Innovative Academic Programs and Partnerships

What are you most looking forward to as the GCSW's new Director of Innovative Academic Programs and Partnerships?

This new role will further support the great work done by the GCSW staff and faculty to provide students unique and meaningful opportunities beyond the existing curriculum. One of the things I love about social work is that there are so many possibilities for those in the field, so I am thrilled to be able to use my experience and relationships in the community to help empower students in ways that expand their education and preparation.  

I also get to continue working with undergraduate students from across the university who are part of the GCSW's Nonprofit Leadership Alliance program. I have the advantage of working with students from different parts of the university who all have the common goal of making their community a better place. 

This role includes assisting Dr. Suzanne Pritzker, who serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, with enhancing the MSW Program. Are there any growth opportunities that you see that can help develop the MSW Program further?

As an alumna of the GCSW and a long-time adjunct professor, I have seen first-hand how the GCSW has continued to develop its core curriculum to give students the preparation they need to go out and do the work we know is required. Anyone who graduates with an MSW from the GCSW is ready to face those challenges and further achieve social justice.  

We in academia are aware that the spectrum of social work practice is vibrant and varied. In terms of innovative programs and partnerships, we are looking at how to go even further and continue to identify and develop additional opportunities that will help make students prepared and experienced. We want to take their academics to the next level and make it relevant for whatever chosen area of focus, and eventual career students decide. We want students to follow their passions in ways that will enhance their learning experiences and ultimately benefit those they serve.

After a little more than a year since returning to the GCSW as a full-time employee, how has your experience been so far?

It has honestly been very inspiring. The pandemic turned so many things upside down. Still, the NLA and MSW students that I work with have found the fortitude to keep going while showing tremendous empathy toward one another and constantly finding ways to help in their community. It is hard not to be motivated by that, and it makes me tremendously appreciative of what a supportive environment can do for people in general. I like being a part of that daily.

What advice would you give to those who are beginning their careers in our MSW program?

The beauty of social work is you can do a great job no matter where you go, which means you have so many options and opportunities in terms of what your career can look like over time. The key ingredients you need are passion and hard work, so the sky is the limit beyond that. This program is your chance to explore possibilities, so do not be afraid to ask questions and look at paths that may not be what you initially expected to find in social work. 

How does this role help advance the GCSW's vision of achieving social justice at every level?

The idea of achieving social justice is exciting and what brings so many to this program, but it can also be an overwhelming concept because of its scope and what it will take to get there. We at the GCSW aim to be more thoughtful and intentional about the kind of learning opportunities we provide our students because our students are taking up the challenging work of becoming, or in many instances, furthering their roles as change agents.  

Anything else you would like us to know?

I want to thank the many people in the community, including GCSW alumni, colleagues, friends, friends of friends, who are always so willing to answer a request when I ask if you would spare some time to speak with a student who wants to talk to someone who does what you do. As I am sure you remember from your school days, those are some of the best conversations and can have a profound and lasting impact on students. Thank you for doing your part to help prepare our future nonprofit leaders and social workers and being that link for them.