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New Faculty Focus: Pajarita Charles

October 31, 2017

Title: Assistant Professor, School of Social Work 

Hometown: Born in Las Vegas, New Mexico; grew up in New York City and Huntington, New York.

Educational background: B.A., Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, 1994, State University of New York at Stony Brook; M.S.W., Social Work, 2001, Columbia University; M.P.A., Public Administration, 2001, Columbia University; Ph.D., Social Work, 2009, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Pajarita Charles

Previous position: Research Scientist, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago

How did you get into your field of research?  My longstanding interest in family and child wellbeing stems from my own experience growing up in a large urban environment among an incredibly diverse community of individuals with various backgrounds, assets and needs. My interests later narrowed to focus on prevention efforts that promote stability among high-risk families in low-income communities. Today, my work is concentrated on supporting healthy child development among children of formerly incarcerated fathers.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? Many things attracted me to UW-Madision, but among the most important were: the caliber and genuineness of faculty and students; the academic rigor and richness of research being done at the School of Social Work and across campus; and having the opportunity to live and work in an area with the perfect blend of nature, urbanicity and family-friendliness that I wanted.

What was your first visit to campus like?  Fantastic! Despite the cold weather (it was winter, after all), I spent two wonderful days with faculty, staff and students from the School of Social Work, where I felt so much at home and hoped to be able to return to one day. 

What’s your favorite place on campus?  Since I just began my appointment, I haven’t found all the secret treasures yet (although Memorial Union Terrace is at the top right now). Any place along the lake is pretty special to me.

What are you most enjoying so far about working here? Having come from a two-hour drive each day, at this point, the short commute is most enjoyable! I love trying out different methods of transportation to and from work. So far, I have taken the bus, walked, biked and scooted.I think roller blading is up next.

Does your work relate in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. Through preventive intervention research, my work aims to promote positive outcomes among children whose families are affected by the criminal justice system with a particular emphasis on fathers in reentry from prison. This research relates to the Wisconsin Idea in that it aspires to contribute to the university’s broader effort to develop solutions to some of society’s most pressing social problems and to bring those solutions to the people and communities of the state.      

Hobbies or other interests? Cooking, gardening, doing anything outside and trying to improve my chess skills by practicing with my 8- and 10-year-old sons, who still beat me every time.