Baylor Graduate Social Work Students Receive Bilingual Scholarships from the Hogg Foundation

Oct. 27, 2009

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Four Baylor University students are among 22 bilingual graduate social work students to receive $386,000 in full-tuition scholarships from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health in Austin.

The students are Mary Zane Morton of Eagle Pass, Emilie Ventura of Beaufort, S.C., and Sonia Fuentes and Viviana Urdaneta of Waco.

Research has shown that people who speak a language other than English are under-represented in social work and other mental health professions in Texas and the United States, according to officials with the Hogg Foundation. As a result, they are less likely to receive effective mental health services.

To begin addressing the shortage of bilingual mental health workers in Texas, the Hogg Foundation began offering the full-tuition scholarships in fall 2008 and has awarded 51 to date. Seven previous recipients, including four from Baylor, have graduated.

The first year, four graduate students at Baylor were awarded $22,000, with Baylor contributing more than $100,000 to help launch the effort locally, said Dr. Dennis Myers, associate dean for graduate studies in Baylor University's School of Social Work.

"This really enriches our curriculum and increases the visibility of the need for it," Myers said.

This year, Baylor students received $44,000, according to officials with the Hogg Foundation. The foundation has a three-year commitment to the grant program.

New students are eligible to apply for the scholarships. Recipients must be accepted by one of 11 accredited graduate social work programs in Texas, be fluent in Spanish and English, and agree to work in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship.

"Graduate schools welcome the scholarship program because it attracts quality students and promotes academic diversity," said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the foundation. "We view the program as a success because it increases the state's mental health workforce and supports the foundation's mission to improve mental health for all Texans."

After graduation, Fuentes plans to provide mental health services to military veterans while seeking a clinical license. She has a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Morton's interest in working with Latino communities grew during her travels in Mexico, beginning in high school. She plans to work with high school students in a bilingual setting and perhaps with Spanish-speakers in the criminal justice system. She has a bachelor's degree in social work from Baylor.

Ventura lived in the Dominican Republic for several years and witnessed the struggles faced by people living in a country with different cultures and languages than their own. She plans to provide bilingual social services, perhaps in a medical field, after graduation. She has a bachelor's degree in religion with a minor in psychology from Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C.

Urdaneta, a native of Colombia, is working toward a master of divinity at George W. Truett Theological Seminary as well as a master's degree in social work. After graduation, she hopes to provide counseling and other mental health services to Spanish-speaking communities. She earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in Colombia.

The Hogg Foundation was founded in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James Hogg to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas. The foundation's grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education in Texas. The foundation is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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