Diane de Anda, professor emerita of social welfare, recalls her younger years spent listening to stories from her grandparents about the Mexican revolution and other historical events they lived through. After working since 1977 as a professor and researcher in the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, she decided it was time to step away from her academic roots and tell stories of her own.
Today, de Anda is an award-winning author of children’s books, including the bilingual, “The Patchwork Garden/Pedacitos de huerto" (Pinata Books, 2013) and “A Day Without Sugar/Un DIa Sin Azucar” (Pinata Books, 2012). She also publishes short stories and poetry in literary journals and satirical pieces about political and social issues in Humor Times and Satire and Comment.
Before joining UCLA, de Anda taught junior high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a job that inspired her to work with youth and drew her into the field of social welfare, with a focus on issues related to youth and families, particularly in the Latino community.
“Most people don’t like teaching junior high students, but I adored them,” de Anda said. “They were at a very critical point in their lives. I think if you catch potential problems [at that age], they have a chance for more productive adult lives. Working with youth seemed like a hopeful kind of thing to do.”
In addition to her creative writing, de Anda maintains her life as a scholar, contributing to the social welfare literature and creating opportunities to discuss research.
“I love research and its intellectual challenge. I invite present and former doctoral students and faculty members to my house, where we have dessert and share ideas about research,” de Anda said. “Research is an intellectual endeavor that should not be limited to the classroom; rather, intellectual exchange should be part of your life as a whole.”
Her best-noted research focused on adolescent pregnancy and motherhood, and she was responsible for formulating the concept “bicultural socialization.”
She also published scholarly books, including “Stress Management for Adolescents: A Cognitive-Behavioral Program” (Research Press, 2002) and “Social Work With Multicultural Youth” (Hayworth Press, 2003).
Extending her passion for social work and working with adolescents well beyond her work in academia, de Anda has consulted and volunteered for organizations that provide services to disadvantaged youth, including the Human Services Association and El Nido Family Centers. Her focus in this work has been on adolescent stress and coping, violence prevention, and the prevention of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in Latino youth.
Rosie Ramos, director of the Pasitos Early Head Start program at the Human Services Association and a longtime colleague said of De Anda, “She is a very hardworking and genuine person, very dedicated and most caring about what happens to teens and pregnant mothers. I have a great deal of respect for her and the work that she does.”
During her years in front of a classroom at UCLA, De Anda taught subjects that included cognitive behavior, adolescent behavior, cross-cultural awareness and research. What she enjoyed most about teaching, she said, was interacting with her students.
“I found speaking with students the most rewarding both personally and intellectually,” she said. “They were always challenging and interactive in my classes.”
She has kept in touch with many former doctoral students, advising and encouraging them to publish their own research.
Susan Snyder considers herself fortunate to have had de Anda on her dissertation committee.
“Dr. de Anda provided the most feedback I have ever received on papers,” Snyder said. “Even though my dissertation was over 100 pages, she provided comprehensive feedback on each page.
Snyder was also a student in de Anda’s classes on cultural competence and cognitive behavior theory. While she found these courses difficult, Snyder said of De Anda, “She has a way of teaching that energizes students and makes learning engaging, bringing energy and passion in a way that few can master. De Anda’s impact in her academic life and the larger community inspired Snyder to pursue a career in academia.
“Dr. de Anda is compassionate, generous and tireless. She is incredibly brilliant and able to analyze complex problems with ease. She also is a phenomenal writer,” Snyder said. “More than anything, Dr. de Anda believes in ensuring that each person is treated with dignity and respect. She is a stalwart advocate of social justice.”
In the future, de Anda said she hopes to continue working with doctoral students at UCLA and help them with their writing. As for her own writing, she has plans to publish a collection of short stories for adults as well as new children’s books, including a collection of 80 animal limericks and a book of nonsense poems for young boys.
This story was originally published by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.