Dr. Susan Lares-Nakaoka is the Director of Field Education in the Department of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs. As a third generation Japanese American/Chicana, her family’s World War II incarceration informs her teaching, scholarship and commitment to racial justice. She credits her UCLA undergraduate internship in a gang diversion program at Nickerson Gardens in Watts for sparking her career in social work.
Dr. Lares-Nakaoka’s research and writing focuses on the intersection of race and community development, critical race pedagogy and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. She is lead author on a forthcoming book, “Critical Race Theory in Social Work,” and editor of an upcoming special issue of the Journal of Community Practice on race and social justice entitled, “Necessary Interventions: “Racing” Community Practice.”
As a critical race scholar, Dr. Lares-Nakaoka is co-founder and co-director of the Critical Race Scholars in Social Work (CRSSW) collective. CRSSW, a network of over 300 individuals, advances race scholarship in social work through a schedule of regular events and a bi-annual conference focusing on applying critical race theory within social work research, writing, education and practice.
Dr. Lares-Nakaoka spent over 12 years providing social services and program development for low-income residents across the country, including positions with the Housing Authority, City of Los Angeles, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Venice Community Housing. Her experiences as Director of Field Education at CSU Dominguez Hills, the first MSW program with a critical race theory perspective, was foundational to her approach to social work pedagogy. Prior to coming to UCLA, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii, CSU Sacramento and CSU Long Beach.
Dr. Melvin Oliver, Yuji Ichioka, Dr. Harry H.L. Kitano, Dr. Mitchell T. Maki, Dr. Daniel Solorzano, and Dr. Lois Takahashi. Special gratitude goes to her beloved doctoral advisor, Dr. Leobardo Estrada.
Selected Community-based Research Projects
Photovoice project on the impacts of transit-oriented development in Little Tokyo
Case Studies of community development organizations: Little Tokyo Service Center (Los Angeles), Chinatown Community Development Center (San Francisco) , InterIm Community Development Association (Seattle) and Hoʻokuaʻāina (Kailua, HI)
Oral histories of Japanese American women activists, descendants of the Sacramento River Delta, and World War II Nisei Cadet Nurses.
Nakaoka, S., Aldana, A. and Ortiz, L. (2023). “Dismantling Whiteness in Ways of Knowing.” In Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice. Oxford University Press.
Aldana, A., Nakaoka, S., Vazquez, N. and Ortiz, L. (2023). “Fifteen Years of Critical Race Theory in Social Work Education: What We’ve Learned.” In Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice. Oxford University Press.
Ortiz, L. and Nakaoka, S. (2023). Critical Race Theory in Social Work. Social Work Encyclopedia. Oxford Research Encyclopedias.
Maglalang, D.D., Sangalang, C.C., Mitchell, F.M., Lechuga-Peña, S., & Nakaoka, S.J. (2021). “The Movement for Ethnic Studies: A Tool of Resistance and Self-Determination for Social Work Education.” Journal of Social Work Education.
Nakaoka, S., Ka‘opua, L., and Ono, M. (2019). “He Ala Kuikui Lima Kanaka: The Journey Towards Indigenizing a School of Social Work.” Intersectionalities: A Global Journal of Social Work Analysis, Research, Polity, and Practice. 7 (1).
Agres, B., Dillard, A., Enos, K., Kakesako, B., Kekauoha, B., Nakaoka, S. and Umemoto, K. (2019). “Sustaining University-Community Partnerships in Indigenous Communities: Five Lessons from Papakōlea.” AAPI Nexus. 16 (1&2).
Nakaoka, S., Ortiz, L. and Garcia, Betty. (2019). “Intentionally Weaving Critical Race Theory in an MSW Program at a Hispanic Serving Institution.” Urban Social Work.