Member Spotlight: Rose Munoz, Region G, Santa Barbara Unit

Rose Munoz, MSW

Region G, Santa Barbara Unit

Santa Barbara Unified School District Board Member

How long have you been a social worker?

I have been a social worker since 1988. I have a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCSB and a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California in social work, with an emphasis on policy, planning and community development. I am bilingual and bicultural.

Please talk about your career and what you’ve enjoyed most about being a social worker.

I am the daughter of immigrants. My parents came to the United States from Mexico. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and had an interesting journey to arrive where I am now. I was 16 years old when my younger sister was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of eleven. Little did I know at the time how our life would change and the long-lasting influence that my sister’s illness would have on me. The people who came into our lives inspired me to pursue a career as an advocate on an individual and societal level.

My educational background has provided an excellent foundation for my career as a community advocate, a clinician and as a school board member. In my past employment with the county of Santa Barbara Public Health and Social Services departments, I have worked closely with students and their families at the local schools. I was an instructional aide for the Migrant Program and for the local school district. With the Migrant Program, I had the opportunity to serve as a mentor for high school students with the Mecha club. With Santa Barbara County, I have years of experience in the field of Child Welfare and also as a case manager for teens that were parenting. I have also served clients in acute care hospitals and have been a case manager for a managed health plan that serves MediCal clients for the past 11 years.

My career as a social worker has been very satisfying because it has enabled me to serve the community. The training provided me the expertise to provide individuals the support they needed to achieve their highest potential and meet their goals. The MSW program also prepared me for a role as an advocate in the community to focus on the societal issues that our clients face on a daily basis. It is very fulfilling to serve individual clients and the community at large; my profession has given me a great deal of motivation and satisfaction.

Tell us how you decided to run for Santa Barbara School Board and about the experience.

I decided to run for the Santa Barbara Unified School District because I knew that I could make a valuable contribution due to my experience and background. I had been an instructional aide and had also been to all the schools in the district as a child welfare worker for the county. Students and parents would approach me for assistance about educational concerns and I would refer them to board members or school staff. I had considered a seat on the School Board for several years. However, I knew it would need to be at the right time in my life so that I could truly dedicate myself to the position and be effective in the capacity of School Board Member. 

The experience of participating in numerous community forums and having the support of 23,992 voters countywide was the beginning of my journey of serving in public office. In a field of eight candidates, I had numerous endorsements, including statewide and local organizations such as Cal Pace NASW, Latinas Lead, Planned Parenthood, Cause Action Fund and the UFCW. I also had the endorsement of many elected officials. I learned to present the priorities of my campaign and be true to myself in communicating with the public.

I have been on the School Board since December 2018 and have been learning constantly and getting informed on the many issues faced by our school district. I have met with students, parents, school staff and community members since being elected. There has been a broad range of matters that we have dealt with in the past seven months and preparing for the board meetings has involved studying the agenda and doing research on the agenda topics. I am looking forward to serving the four-year term and am grateful for my social work background and involvement in the school, as it has served me on many occasions.

Tell us about your greatest achievements, professional or personal.

My greatest personal achievement has been raising two daughters, who are now grown. They are feminist young women with strong self-identities; it has been my goal to support them in life as they pursue their dreams. I returned to my community after graduate school as I had intended. My youngest daughter followed in my footsteps and recently completed the Master’s of Social Work program.

A professional achievement was being a cofounder of the statewide Latino Social Work Network, which had its roots when a fellow classmate and I attended the NASWCA conference in 1988. We saw the need for a professional organization that addressed the issues faced by Latino social workers. The initial organizing meeting was held in Santa Barbara; attendees included the Deans of Social Work Schools of Fresno, Cal State LA and San Jose State. Social work graduate students, social workers, and professors in the field participated in an annual conference that has been held for more than 15 years.

I have been involved at the grassroots level and participated in local groups including the Cause Action Fund, the Pro Youth Movement and the Westside Neighborhood Group. I worked on the passage of local school bonds and parcel taxes. I also volunteered for the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and was active in the PTA groups in the schools. I have been a mentor to the Mujercitas group at San Marcos High School; this group provides leadership opportunities to Latina students. I have been an advocate for teenage clients and have provided support as they seek a full range of reproductive health services at Planned Parenthood health centers.

In 2014, I received the Dolores Huerta award for my civic participation in the community from the Cause Action Fund. Our state senator and congressman recognized me for my efforts. I have worked on tenant’s rights, immigration reform and improvements in our neighborhoods. This year, I was honored by Cause Action Fund for the success of my campaign for the Santa Barbara Unified School Board after many years of participation as a volunteer with the organization.

Please discuss your involvement with NASW and how it has been important to you.

I have participated in the local NASW-CA Santa Barbara Unit and served on their board as a member-at-large this past year. I will serve as co-president of the unit in the fall of 2019. Involvement in NASW is important because we provide support to social workers in the community and mentorship for new graduates. The professional forums provide ongoing education about social work topics and information about programs that serve our clients. 

Do you have any future plans or goals?

My plan is to continue to serve on the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board and represent my constituents. I also plan to continue my involvement in NASW, Cause Action Fund, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee and the Westside Neighborhood Group.

My goal is to encourage participation by social workers in community issues and be a mentor to colleagues that are considering public office.

Any advice for new social workers?

The best advice I can give to new social workers is to be involved in their community. Our training and perspective as social workers are needed in order to address the complex challenges faced by our communities. There are numerous issues in our field such as health care, mental health, housing, nutritional needs and economic challenges. As social workers, we are better able to serve our clients if we are informed about these issues whether we are clinicians or are involved in community advocacy.

What about for social workers wanting to get into the political realm?

I suggest identifying issues that you are passionate about and signing up as a volunteer, this is the ideal way to get involved. The social policy learned in the classroom is best when applied hands-on whether you get involved in supporting a candidate or work for a particular issue. The opportunity to network and learn from others is invaluable; the experience I had as a volunteer was an asset to me.

If you are considering running for office, attend candidate leadership trainings and do your research. If the meetings are public, make sure you attend the meetings. Last and most importantly, hire an experienced campaign manager. A good manager will help you map out a strategy and give you the best chance at success in your campaign.

Submitted by S. Jolene Hui, LCSW, Director of Membership, NASW-CA. She can be reached at

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