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New faculty focus: Alejandra Ros Pilarz

November 1, 2016
Photo: Alejandra Ros Pilarz

Assistant professor, School of Social Work • Educational background: Ph.D. and MSW from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration; BA in psychology from the University of Notre Dame • Professional experience: Working with parents and their children ages 0-5 at a Head Start/Even Start program on the north side of Chicago, as well as social work internships in a community mental health center and in the Office of Regional Health Administrator at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region V




Where are you from?

I came to Madison from Chicago, where I lived for 10 years. I was born in Mexico City, but spent most of my childhood in South Bend, Indiana.

What attracted you to UW–Madison?

I was excited to join UW–Madison because of the strong reputation of the School of Social Work and the university as a whole, particularly in the areas of public policy and poverty research.  The Institute for Research on Poverty provides wonderful opportunities to engage with colleagues across diverse fields who share similar interests and passions.

Favorite place on campus?

The Memorial Union Terrace in the summer is hard to beat!

What was your first visit to campus like?

My first visit to UW–Madison was actually as a prospective doctoral student. Though I ended up staying at the University of Chicago for my Ph.D., the visit stuck with me throughout my doctoral studies, and I always hoped I would have the opportunity to come back as a faculty member.

How did you get into your field of research?

My first job out of college was working at the Jane Addams Hull House in Chicago in a Head Start/Even Start program. I coached parents with children ages 0-5 on ways they could support their young children’s early literacy development and school readiness. Through this experience, I became interested in early childhood as a critical period of development and decided to pursue a master’s in social work in order to learn more about public policies and programs aimed at supporting the healthy development of young children in low-income families. While pursuing my master’s degree, I realized I wanted to try to make a bigger contribution through research. My research now broadly focuses on how parental employment and early care and education experiences in early childhood contribute to child and family well-being, with a focus on public policies and programs aimed at supporting low-income families.

What’s something interesting you can share about your area of expertise that will make us sound smarter at parties?

The U.S. has a publicly-funded program, called the Child Care and Development Fund, that subsidizes the cost of child care for low-income, working families. However, due to limited funding and other barriers, it is estimated that only one in four eligible children receives a child care subsidy through the program.

Last good book or movie?

The last good book I read is Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. It’s an amazing story of childhood friendship.


Running, good food, theatre and cinema, traveling, and puzzles of all kinds.

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