Part-time Faculty Spotlight: Interview with Edgardo Mansilla
Edgardo Mansilla grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied at the International Theological Baptist Seminary, in Buenos Aires, receiving a bachelor’s and a Licentiate in Theology and a Master’s in Social Work at the Carver School of Social Work. He spent most his professional life serving low-income families, both in Argentina and in the United States. Mansilla came to Louisville with a scholarship to study social work. At that time, he was the Director of Social Ministries for the Argentina Baptist Convention, and even though he had attended classes in social work, he felt that he was “ill prepared to lead the work.”However, over time he grew in his profession and went on to teach at the International Baptist Seminary, Carver School of Social Work, Bellarmine University and Simmons College. During the Summer of ‘98, Dr. Bibhuti Sar invited him to teach Diversity, Oppression and Social Justice (603) at the University of Louisville, and he has been teaching at Kent ever since. Mansilla is currently teaching 603 Diversity, Oppression and Social Justice and 641 Social Justice & Injustice in Communities & Social Policies.
Edgardo, who has influenced you the most in life and why?
There are many people who made a deep mark in my life, a professor of social work in Argentina, Sarah G. Wilson became my friend and mentor. Lic. Floreal Ureta, who was my professor in 4 different courses, and I am proud to be considered his disciple, (Ideology, Philosophy, Greek and Hebrew), Dr. Donoso Escobar, and Dean Anne Davis at Carver School. Another source of influence in my life have been books. To mention a couple, In His Steps (Charles Sheldon) - a book that my mother gave me when I was 13 and I still read over and over until today, The Cross in the Marketplace (Foy Valentine), Cuerpos y Almas, (Maxence Von der Meersh), Why not the Best (President Carter), A Theology of Liberation, (Gustavo Gutierrez), The Cost of Discipleship, (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and countless classmates, students, board members and colleagues. In one way or another they helped me to be a better person, a better servant. Social work is a servant focused profession, it is our honor and privilege to interact with people, and systems that required a holistic perspective.
Why were you interested in studying social work?
From my faith perspective, social justice is a given. I have had the privilege to live and work among what society considers the poor of the poor. Social change can only occur by changing systems, challenging the status quo creating new policies that will lead to new systems. We are aware of many oppressive systems; gender-religion-economic-political; if we want a better society, we must confront what is unjust and change it. No excuses.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I enjoy the learning experience that we share in the classroom. For me teaching is an interchange of concepts, we professors have a role, but we must be open to keep learning from colleagues that are called students.
What is your favorite course to teach and why?
SW 603, Diversity, Oppression and Social Justice. Being an international in our city, for many years the only Latinx at Kent, creating a community center that serves immigrants, refuges and underserved population (Americana Community Center) this class provides the theoretical framework that helps me to keep growing in my service to the community.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
To keep finding ways to be creative, each group of students is different than the previous semester.
How do you bring your experience into the classroom?
Trying to find the best approach to share ideas, concepts, challenges that are just for this particular group. There is more than the generational divide, I strive to teach so the student can be the best professionals that they are able to be.
What about the Kent School of Social Work most excites you?
The new curriculum that brings back the Mezzo and Macro areas to the classroom.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I was and I am serving on several boards, from the Zoo, to the Labor Management. My approach is very simple, I have only one life, and if I can bring some different perspective, most of the time a challenging perspective, I am more than willing to do so.
What are your research interests and why?
I think that the integration process of internationals in Louisville is a great topic to research. This community has never had such an increase of newcomers, from so many countries. I strongly believe that it is being ignored. Today one in every 7 residents in Louisville is a first-generation immigrant. JCPS provides this interesting data; 11% of all students are internationals (English Language Learners -ELL- students) and most of them are registered in K to 3rd grade. How are social workers being prepared to know, serve, and inspire them? Another topic of interest is the connection between indigenous people in Latin America and the USA, and the systematic oppression that we suffered for more than 500 years. Also, research is needed on the misuse of stereotypes related to internationals both undocumented and green card holders, which is more than micro-aggressions or ignore the NASW Code of Ethics. It is about cultural humility, keeping in touch with immigration laws, and their changes currently based on Executive Orders, not new laws. I’m also interested in research on services for the millions of undocumented workers across the USA, and the need for comprehensive immigration law reform.
Edgardo doesn’t have much free time outside of the classroom and his work in the community; however, his favorite hobbies include reading and driving around the region.