As a profession, social work is so interesting because of the broad work opportunities that can make a difference in improving the lives of vulnerable and marginalized populations. We have so many opportunities to work in various capacities with different social groups and on different issues. Regardless of the pathway, all social work positions can ultimately result in making a positive impact in the lives of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Social work is special because I can teach students the subject matter, but I cannot teach them passion. That is something the students bring, and it is a key element in the learning process. Learning can be challenging, but those challenges are minimized by their passion that inspires them and increases their hunger for knowledge. I love getting to see the process unfold in the classroom, and for me, witnessing such progression and helping shape how that passion is used motivates me to be a better coach and mentor. 

My research interests center on social determinants of health among the Latinx and African American populations; adolescent health-risk behaviors; and child welfare employee psychosocial outcomes. I am currently examining risk factors associated with suicide among Latinx adolescents, farmers, and agricultural workers. The issue of suicide disproportionately impacts these subgroups and I want to create knowledge that moves forward the understanding of this phenomenon. I am also engaged in examining how employment-based social capital impacts organizational behavior, intentions to stay with the agency, psychological distress, effects of work on family life, empowerment, and job burnout among public child welfare workers. I am also investigating the health beliefs and habits of child welfare workers.  

Throughout my research and teachings I hope that my students gain an understanding that social work is a profession. Lots of people want to help others, but it takes more than a big heart to do so. It takes a set of professional skills to be able to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we work. My students hopefully understand that and work on building a skill set that will truly make them effective helping professionals.

Javier F. Boyas, Ph.D.
  • Ph.D., Boston College
  • M.S.W., University of Michigan