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Assistant Professor/Research, Boston College

Age: 29

Heritage: Colombian


María Fernanda Piñeros Leaño is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Boston College. She is from Bogotá, Colombia.  


Maria Fernanda obtained her Bachelors of Science in Psychology, a Master of Social Work, a Master of Public Health, and a PhD in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Throughout her academic career and experience in the field of Social Work, she noticed that there was a lack of health and mental health research being conducted with Latinx populations by Latinx researchers. This inspired her to work closely with Latinx communities to identify the main health and mental health needs to then propose sustainable ways to address them.     


Working with Latina immigrant mothers, María Fernanda noticed that many Spanish-speaking clients were unable to access health and mental health services because of the lack of Spanish-speaking providers. As a result, the opportunity to become part of the faculty of the Latinx Leadership Initiative (LLI) at Boston College, was a strong motivation to move to Boston. The LLI prepares students to work effectively with Latinx communities on designing sustainable solutions for complex problems. The LLI follows a cohort model in which social work classes are taught in Spanish. 


Through her short, yet remarkable career, María Fernanda has worked on several research projects, published multiple articles in scientific journals, and won distinguished awards and fellowships. Despite all these accomplishments, one of her most memorable research projects was the implementation of a nutritional and health program led by Latinx community members. As part of the program, around forty community members would do  Zumba™ together weekly while learning more about healthy eating. This program not only promoted a healthy lifestyle, but it also created strong bonds between community members. María hopes to continue working alongside Latinx communities to promote positive health and mental health outcomes.


María Fernanda understands the importance of being represented in academia and having a strong network of people who help each other succeed. She wants to continue conducting research, teaching, and developing mentoring strategies that can ensure that first-generation and students of color feel welcome and included in academia.

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