Dr. Mirta Paola Leon

Dr. M. Paola Leon Arizmendi
Paola Leon is an
Associate Professor in social work and Director at the School of Social Work at Grand Valley State University.

Office Address:  
333C DEV

Phone Number:  

Email Address:  
[email protected] 

Winter 2024 Office Hours:
By Appointment

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 teaching portfolio typically includes: SW300 – Social Work and Difference, Diversity and Privilege and SW613 – Human Rights and Social Work. Paola consistently participates in professional development and faculty learning communities that examine inclusive practices. In 2022, she was invited to co-lead the GVSU-FTLC Inclusive Excellence Teaching Institute, a three-day program aimed at providing a transformational space for faculty to learn and strategize about inclusive excellence in teaching and learning.

Research Interests:
Paola’s 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 in the Peruvian Amazon. Her broader interests include antiracist/decolonial practice, gender equity, immigrant and refugee populations, and international social work.

Paola began teaching at GVSU School of Social Work in the Fall of 2012. She is an associate professor and served as the MSW Program Director from August 2020 – June 2023. She’s currently serving as the Director of the School of 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 courageous 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.


If you’d like to know more about Dr. Leon’s teaching, scholarship, service, and practice, please see her curriculum vitae: Click Here

Dr. Leon

Mirta Paola Leon

Page last modified January 24, 2024