Dr. Mirta Paola Leon

Paola León is the Associate Professor in social work and Graduate Program Director at the School of Social Work at Grand Valley State University.

Office Address:  
357C DEV

Phone Number:  

Email Address:  
[email protected] 

Office Hours:
Tuesday and Wednesday: 10-11:30 a.m.

Teaching Areas:

Paola teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her teaching and research are influenced by a human rights-based approach to social work education and practice. As an educator, Paola values pedagogies that promote consciousness-raising and are liberatory. Her research engages qualitative and participatory methodologies. Her current research focuses on examining the construct of feminist solidary economies through the lens of the lived experience of women participating in women-led cooperatives. Her broader interests include antiracist/decolonial practice, gender equity, immigrant and refugee populations, and international social work.


Paola is the founder of the Social Justice Begins with ME! reading program for children ages 4-11. This is a critical literacy program that is provided every Fall in collaboration with the Grand Rapids Public Library. This program uses children’s literature to open brave spaces for children and caregivers to participate in guided dialogue about social justice. She is also a co-director of the El Salvador & Guatemala study abroad program. This program immerses GVSU students with diverse backgrounds in the culture, history, and current issues in each country highlighting the historical and geopolitical relationship with the United States. She was also a U.S. Fulbright Scholar at the Professional School of Social Work at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Perú where she taught courses on qualitative methodologies. She continues to collaborate with her colleagues in Peru through her research affiliation with the Seminario de Economía Social, Solidaria y Popular (Seminary for the study of Social, Solidary and Popular Economy)


Paola received her Ph.D. and Master’s degree in social work with a minor in Women and Gender in Global Perspectives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her Bachelor’s in social work from the University of Puerto Rico.

Mirta Paola Leon

Page last modified July 18, 2021