Posted on June 11, 2020 by Elizabeth Castillo


By Elizabeth Castillo 

The end of the 2020 school year brought change, uncertainty, and virtual learning for students at UTSA. However, for one class in the College of Education and Human Development, the end of the semester brought a celebrity visitor to their virtual classroom. United Nation’s goodwill ambassador and a founding member of the Time’s Up movement, Hollywood Actress Ashley Judd.

Judd has become an international spokeswoman on human trafficking, family violence addiction and childhood trauma; often pulling from personal experience to become a voice and advocate for the community.

Guest speakers are not a rarity in the Child Abuse and Domestic Violence class co-led by Dr. Stacy Speedlin-Gonzalez and wife Judge Rosie Speedlin-Gonzalez who often pull in professionals from the field. Their goal, to provide students with a robust experience that includes both lecture methods and visits from the professionals the students may end up working with in the field.

“We’ve got Socratic lecture methods where we talk about the necessary theories they need to understand, and service provision and understanding mental health disorders, how to treat and deal with substance abuse and you couple that with what I like to bring into the class which is the professionals that they are going to be having a lot of contact with,” Judge Speedlin-Gonzalez said. “When you fold all that in together, I think you have a number of dynamic factors that the students are attracted to.”

Knowing that their students were facing an unprecedented end to the semester, the duo brainstormed ways to make it special.

“We knew that our students were not getting the experience that they were hoping for, we were checking in with them on a regular basis and they missed the classroom, they missed interacting with the Judge and I, and we thought to ourselves ‘how can we end this semester in way that would be very meaningful to the students?’” Dr. Speedlin-Gonzalez said. “I’ve known Ashley Judd for a little while, I knew her personally and I was aware of some of her history, so I reached out to her and we were able to put something together where she was able to come to the class.”

Judd’s special visit to the class was not only a surprise to the student’s, but her personal stories, paired with her openness to speak about her past hardships provided a look into the life of not only a well-known celebrity, but a survivor.

“What made this particular class unique and special was that she told her personal story and I thought that was powerful,” Dr. Speedlin-Gonzalez said. “I think that she provided a lot of inspiration to this particular group of students.”

Dedicated to educating future social care workers and counselors, Dr. and Judge Speedlin-Gonzalez have a robust history of serving the San Antonio and Bexar County communities. Judge Speedlin-Gonzalez has a 17-year history as a Child Welfare Attorney and 11-years of prior experience in social work and now sits as Judge of County Court 13. Dr. Speedlin-Gonzalez has more than 10 years’ experience as an addiction counselor. Together, the couple co-authored a House Bill for the 86 th   Legislative Session, House Bill 2539, a bill which passed unanimously where only 19% of bills were signed into law.

“The department is so privileged to have both of these amazing professionals be mentors, guides and teachers for our students. They could never begin to have the same kind of experience or learning opportunity by reading a book or by participating in a traditional format,” Dr. Thelma Duffey, Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Counseling said. “What they do is bring very impressive guests so students are able to get the knowledge, the practicality and the resources first-hand. In addition to Dr. and Judge Speedlin-Gonzalez, these guest lecturers provide an experience our students will remember for a very long time.”

Aimed at growing their class to 100 students, Dr. and Judge Speedlin-Gonzalez remain dedicated to their field work as well as bringing the field to their students. Together with their compassion for the community and dedication to educating future leaders in the field, the couple is destined to change the future of marginalized communities.

“We continue to have in our county a growing number of domestic violence and child abuse cases as compared to the rest of the state. Because of the demand, the need to supply counselors, therapists and professionals in those areas is strong in our community. Judge Speedin-Gonzalez said.” “It’s pretty meaningful to be able to impact the future for the next two or three generations by what we teach the students that are coming through our class every semester.”

To learn more about the Counseling Department, visit:

For community resources for domestic violence, child abuse and more, visit:

— Elizabeth Castillo