Ariana Cantu's 26-year career spans migration and border issues, health care, housing, direct service, mental health, community organizing, advocacy, environmental justice and restoration, racial and social justice, and education. Both her community and applied research interests are in spatial justice, community-led efforts, and strategizing for transformative change from an asset vs. deficit lens.
Ariana identifies as a queer, Latine, activist-scholar and was born in Burien, Wash. She began as a community organizer in People of Color (POC) led organizations and communities throughout Seattle/King County, where she first credits her knowledge for social change. She worked in direct counseling practice with unsheltered youth and adults, later in homeless prevention, managing eviction and mortgage assistance programs, and in leadership roles supporting the development of permanent, affordable housing. She spent several years working in the community and technical college setting for Seattle colleges, supporting students with disabilities and training faculty and staff on ADA compliance, then later as the Director of TRIO and Project Finish Line, where she created and supported the colleges’ Re-Entry Program for formerly incarcerated individuals seeking a degree. She operates an anti-oppressive, organizational change consulting practice, providing strategic support to organizations and its people, grounded in liberatory change practices.
She is also an adjunct faculty member for the Honors College and the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, where she co-Instructs interdisciplinary courses on community inclusion and equity in the changing public realm. In 2022, she was awarded the Honors Community & Curriculum Innovation Scholar, for her work developing a course on gentrification and neighborhood change. In 2021, she was the recipient of the Global Innovation in Curriculum award for her transglobal teaching partnership with the University of Namibia’s Department of Psychology and Social Work. She currently volunteers with No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization based in Tucson, Arizona.
She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Washington, Seattle.