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About Us

Kristin 3


Our goals at NASWSI include increasing student enrollment in the field of social work, especially among native communities in New Mexico and beyond. We aspire to be a resource for tribal social workers, tribal communities and Native students coming to New Mexico Highlands University. Learn more about NASWSI below and check out our course offerings and upcoming trainings.


Our mission is to educate and train social workers to provide services for tribal nations and indigenous communities by promoting resiliency, cultural knowledge, wisdom and healing.

Headshot Of A Gorgeous Native American Girl In Hawaii
Family In Nature


Our vision is to establish a Native American lens of social work practices that educates and trains helping professionals to successfully respond to Native American families’ and communities’ needs that promote healing and resiliency.

Our Prospectus

The Institute will be situated within New Mexico Highlands University, Facundo Valdez School of Social Work and the first effort anywhere in the country by a school of social work to establish a program of study and development to respond directly to the call of tribal governments for acknowledgement of their sovereign right to determine content and focus of education to prepare students for work in their communities. This accomplishment was reached through centuries’ long struggles by tribal leadership to gain control over the education of their people and the right to define adaptable response to societal change impacting tribal communities as acknowledged in the 2009 Tribal/State Collaboration Act.

Excerpt from the Native American Social Work Studies Institute Prospectus written by Evelyn Lance Blanchard, MSW, Ph.D. Coordinator, NASWSI Advisory/Development Committee.

Our Staff

César G. Abarca, Ph.D, MSW
César G. Abarca, Ph.D, MSW

Dean and Professor, Facundo Valdez School of Social Work

I am a Xicano community organizer, scholar-activist, and urban farmer. I earned my interdisciplinary doctoral degree in Sociology and Social Welfare from Boston University, and my BSW and MSW degrees from San Francisco State University. I have practiced social work in multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic communities in California, Massachusetts, and New Mexico. I am bilingual and bicultural, and my teaching experience includes social policy, research, community projects, social enterprises, environmental justice, community practice, cultural concepts, and master's projects. I have taught in social work programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, in person, and online. My research interests are immigration (theory, practice, and policy), employment, community development and engagement, grassroots community organizing, ethnographic methods, and social movements.


Director, Native American Social Work Studies Institute

Kristin Stephenson
Kristin Stephenson

Senior Administrative Assistant

Rebecca Martin
Rebecca Martin

Tribal Consultant

Rebecca is from the Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico. She received her elementary and secondary education on the reservation and attended Griswold College in Cleveland, Ohio. She worked for Westinghouse Electric Co. and Caterpillar Tractor, Inc, before relocating to Indianapolis in 1990. In Indianapolis, IN., Rebecca served as Executive Director of the American Indian Center of Indiana, operating the JTPA program, and was President of the Indiana Native American Business Association and Native American Cultural Association. She and her husband owned and operated Bear Creek Gallery, a Native American and southwestern jewelry, art, and interior décor retail store. Rebecca speaks the Keresan dialect, and before coming to New Mexico Highlands University, she served as the Acoma Keres Language Coordinator for the Pueblo of Acoma, creating the Acoma Keres Dictionary.

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