A Latina Proud to Be the Only Cuban-American Dean at FAU

Meet Naelys Luna, a 2022 Hispanic Woman of Distinction and Ph.D., MSW, Founding Dean and Professor, Florida Atlantic University College of Social Work & Criminal Justice


“Hispanic women’s traditions and history carry unparalleled resiliency and the unwavering conviction that we are change agents capable of bringing transformation, reparation, restoration, hope and justice to our communities and the world.”

Some of the most hotly contested topics in the media and at the dinner table surround finding solutions for societal inequality, mental health prevalence and disparities, criminal justice reform and the effects of these challenges on our communities.

Naelys Luna

Naelys Luna

As the founding dean and professor at Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) College of Social Work & Criminal Justice, Naelys Luna, Ph.D., MSW, is helping prepare tomorrow’s social work and criminal justice leaders, scholars, practitioners and policymakers to effect positive change in the world. One of her proudest accomplishments is that she is the only Cuban-American dean at FAU and one of the few Latina deans in social work and criminal justice in the country.

Naelys followed the path that her parents, Cuban educators, set for her by receiving her B.A. in psychology from Seton Hall University, and her graduate and doctorate degrees in social work from Fordham University.  As dean, she leads a college that has multiple programs and centers specializing on healthy aging, children and families’ mental health, addiction, wellness and well-being, and the use of technology and simulation on decision-making related to crisis response.  For example, the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice houses a Decision-making Simulation Lab, which uses experiential scenarios filmed with actors to allow Criminal Justice students, local law enforcement and members of the community to research, train and develop crisis response techniques, including de-escalation skills.

Dr. Luna (right) with Belci Encinosa, MSW (middle), 2022 Honoree for the FAU Alumni Hall of Fame and Phyllis & Harvey Sandler

Dr. Luna (right) with Belci Encinosa, MSW (middle), 2022 Honoree for the FAU Alumni Hall of Fame and Phyllis & Harvey Sandler School of Social Work alumna; with special guest, Yvette Drucker, Council Member for the City of Boca Raton.

Working with her faculty, staff and community leaders, she has not only created study curricula to help combat societal inequities, but also co-chairs the development and implementation committee for FAU’s “Breezeway Dialogues” series, which provides students the opportunity to discuss relevant and controversial topics while learning civil discourse best practices.

Naelys’ research papers have been published in dozens of educational and scientific journals. She has also served as President of the Florida Association for Deans and Directors in Social Work and currently serves as a member of the National Association of Deans and Directors in Social Work on their National Anti-Racism subcommittee. She is also a Board of Trustee and a member of the Community Investment Committee for Palm Health Foundation in Palm Beach County, in addition to other active roles with organizations that are working toward promoting holistic health and wellbeing in our communities.

Along with her husband, Rene Luna, who works in law enforcement, and their daughters, Sofia and Maya, the Lunas prioritize traveling as their favorite family hobby, with ice skating and golf close behind.

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21st Anniversary of Hispanic Women of Distinction set for August 26, 2022 

The annual celebration of Community, Culture and Charity honors Latinas in South Florida, past and present.

The 21st annual Hispanic Women of Distinction Charity luncheon to be held on Friday, August 26th, 2022, at Signature Grand in Davie, Florida is anticipating another sell-out of up to 1000 guests paying tribute to Latina professionals who are strengthening the social fabric of this country and making inroads in the leadership pipeline for a growingly diverse America.

Founded in 2001 by the late Erwin M.Vasquez, M.D., a Venezuelan-born cardiologist, philanthropist and publisher of the pioneer Spanish newspaper, El Heraldo de Broward, the goal was to help to empower Latinas and to recognize the influence they have in the South Florida community.   These Latinas, both past and present, are not afraid to dream big, to carve their own paths, to be grateful for the opportunities they have received, and to pay it forward to those who will follow.

The 2022 Honorees are:


ANA VEIGAMILTON – President, José Milton Foundation, Chair of Jackson Health Foundation, UM Trustee and President of the Citizens Board, lawyer and engineer, committed to impactful philanthropy and community engagement throughout South Florida. Family Values • Community-Wide


ARLETTE GOMEZ – Third year law student at NSU, Shepard Broad College of Law, Dean’s list with awards for outstanding service.  Cuban born, this young woman is active on numerous community boards, and NSU’s President’s 64 Member, whose purpose is to strengthen the relationship with the community.

JOIN US on August 26th to honor these fantastic women! Tickets $95 per person, table sponsorship $1500.  For more information email: [email protected].  www.hispanicwomenofdistinction.com

More related content

The Hispanic Women of Distinction Reaches a Milestone Celebration of Community, Culture and Charity honoring Latinas in South Florida, Past and Present

The 19th Annual Hispanic Women of Distinction Charity Luncheon


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