Jesus Manuel (Manny) Casas was born in the small town of Avalos, Chihuahua, Mexico. His rich racial/ethnic heritage includes roots in Spain and indigenous Mexico. His paternal great-grandmother was Apache, having been saved by Mexican wagon masters from U.S. cavalry raids on her village and subsequently taken to Mexico where she was raised by his great-grandfather’s family. Something that ties him historically to California, the state in which he has lived most of his life, is the fact that in the 1800s his paternal great-grandfather spent a major portion of his life driving a wagon train from the north central part of Mexico to Sacramento, California, and back again.
Casas immigrated to the United States at a young age and was educated in the racially hostile environs of the U.S. educational system during the late 1940s and 1950s. Part of this historical period is best captured in Casas’s own words from his 2001 published life story:
On the first day of school, my mother, along with a limited-English speaking friend, walked me and a friend to school, got me to the classroom and left. As I entered the classroom, I experienced the kind of aloneness, fear, and alienation that, if it were in my power, no other child would ever have to experience. No one looked like me. No one spoke my language. I couldn’t communicate with anyone, including the teacher. To solve this communication problem, the teacher came up with a unique and intellectually chal-lenged strategy. I would be seated in the back of the room—not the bus—the room, where I could listen and with time eventually pick up the English language. (Casas et al., 2001, p. 84)
And so began Casas’s lifelong devotion to advocating for immigrant families—particularly poor Latino/a families and children.
Despite the discrimination he experienced during his primary and secondary schooling, he graduated at the top of his high school class and went on to college at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating, he taught in the public schools for 5 years before going on to graduate school. He earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1975. After 2 years as a counseling psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, he began his career at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Over the course of his more than 30 years as a psychologist, Casas has become widely recognized as a distinguished scholar of Chicano/a psychology. He is now the senior Chicano faculty member in the University of California system.
Though Casas is best known for his work in developing the field of Chicano/a psychology, he has also done considerable work in general multicultural counseling. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology) and Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues). He is also the recipient of many awards, most recently the National Latina/o Psychological Association Psychologist’s Distinguished Contributions to Latino(a) Psychology Award in 2006, and he was honored as an elder at the 2007 APA National Multicultural Summit and Conference.
He has been a reviewer or editorial board member for 19 journals, including The Counseling Psychologist, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, and American Psychologist. He has authored or coauthored 140 articles and has presented 129 papers at professional conferences internationally. He has published in the flagship journals of his field and has either written, edited, or contributed to most of the seminal works in multicultural counseling. Casas’s works are among the most frequently cited in the field of multicultural counseling, and his works have literally contributed to defining the field and pushing it to use more rigorous research methods.
With all of these accomplishments, one of Casas’s greatest strengths is as a teacher and mentor. To produce scholars who are also caring teachers, he combines his immense knowledge of the literature and Socratic teaching style with the care and interest of a parent. Among his many proteges who have gone on to establish their own records of excellence in multicultural counseling psychology are some of the field’s most dedicated and eminent counseling psychologists. Casas has collaborated with dozens of prominent multicultural counseling psychologists—far too many to name here.
Casas’s role as a practitioner has been primarily in the area of advocacy and consultation. He has consulted with over 50 governmental and nongovernmental organizations, mostly as a multicultural or diversity consultant. To this point, Casas was one of the only Latino psychologists to work toward increasing the sensitivity, knowledge, and practices of selective Fortune 500 companies who, early on, acknowledged their need to reach and access the growing Latino/a population. Through this work, he developed training models and manuals that are still in use today. More importantly, Casas has been an advocate for the Chicano/a communities and other oppressed groups during his career. Very few people know the amount of time, energy, and resources that he has poured into the local Chicano/a community in Santa Barbara. For instance, he has served on numerous boards of nonprofit organizations that work toward increasing the educational and social well-being of Latino/a children and families (e.g., Head Start). He continues to be a member of the Santa Barbara Mental Health Commission. In this position he serves as an advocate for those populations that are inappropriately served or underserved by the mental health system. More to the point, when asked why he wanted to be on the Commission, Casas said, “Someone needs to watch how they are spending the money and to make sure it gets to the families that need it.”
Casas has secured millions of dollars worth of grants from public and private foundations. He has been responsible for channeling more than $10 million of grant money to the County of Santa Barbara for use in the development of interventions for high-risk children. In addition, he has served as the cochair of the University of California Chancellor’s Outreach Advisory Board, overseeing the distribution of millions of dollars earmarked for increasing the pipeline of students of color eligible for admission to the University of California.
Casas continues his work as an advocate, consultant, educator, and researcher, As an advocate, he is directing much of his energy to work with the local community to identify and implement the best practices and interventions that can be used to combat the growing menace of gang violence. As a consultant, Casas is volunteering his time to work with the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala to help the university to develop the first Ph.D.-level counseling psychology training program in Guatemala. He welcomes this venture because it gives him a chance to test the generalizability of many existing multicultural theories and practices with the very diverse and indigenous population of Guatemala. With respect to research, he is “examining old wine in new bottles.” More specifically, to increase the understanding of ethnic identity, he is examining, comparing, and contrasting this construct with other psychological constructs that together are the essence of the “self.”
Casas’s lifelong devotion to bettering the conditions of his people through his work has taken a more personal turn in recent years. It is common to see him out in the community with his two young, recently emigrated godsons, Joel and Manuelito, in whom he is already instilling the love of learning and commitment to the community. These boys are now benefiting from the care, nurturing, and structure that so many students and clients have received from Casas. In their eyes are reflected Dr. Casas’s dream . . . and the love they have for their abuelito.
- Brady, S., Casas, J. M., & Ponterotto, J. G. (1983). Sexual preference biases in counseling: An information processing approach. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 30, 139-145.
- Casas, J. M., & Keefe, S. E. (Eds.). (1978). Family and mental health in the Mexican-American community. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Spanish-Speaking Mental Health Research Center.
- Casas, J. M., Ponterotto, J. G., & Gutierrez, J. M. (1986). An ethical indictment of counseling research and training: The cross-cultural perspective. Journal of Counseling & Development, 64, 347-349.
- Casas, J. M., Turner, J. A., & Ruiz de Esparza, C. (2001). Machismo revisited in a time of crisis: Implications for understanding and counseling Hispanic men. In G. R. Brooks & G. E. Good (Eds.), The new handbook of psychotherapy and counseling with men: A comprehensive guide to settings, problems, and treatment approaches (Vol. 2, pp. 754-779). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Ponterotto, J. G., & Casas, J. M. (1987). In search of multicultural competence within counselor education programs. Journal of Counseling & Development, 65, 430-434.
- Ponterotto, J., & Casas, J. M. (1991). Handbook of racial/ethnic minority counseling research. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
- Ponterotto, J. G., Casas, J. M., Suzuki, L. A., & Alexander, C. M. (Eds.). (1995). Handbook of multicultural counseling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Ruiz, R., & Casas, J. M. (1981). A model of culturally relevant and behavioristic counseling for Chicano college students. In P. Pedersen, J. C. Draguns, W. J. Lonner, & J. Trimble (Eds.), Counseling across cultures. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.