AUSTIN, Texas -- The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health
has introduced a groundbreaking bilingual scholarship program that will offer up to $1 million to Spanish-speaking students at accredited graduate social work programs in Texas in the next three years.
The new statewide program is the first of its kind in Texas and possibly in the U.S.
"This is a bold, forward-thinking program to encourage linguistic and cultural diversity in higher education and attract more interest in social work as a profession," said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. The foundation is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
The demand for bilingual social workers is greater than ever. Studies have shown that populations of color are under-represented in social work and other mental health professions. As a result, these populations are far less likely to receive effective mental health services that meet their cultural and linguistic needs.
In Texas, this is especially true for Latinos, who represent the state's largest ethnic population. Spanish is the second-most common language in Texas and was the primary language spoken at home by 6.2 million people in Texas in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau also reported in May that the number of Hispanics living in Texas reached 8.6 million, 36 percent of the state's population, in 2007. Texas' Hispanic population was the second largest in the U.S. in 2007 and grew at a faster rate than any other state from 2006 to 2007, with an increase of 308,000 people.
"There simply aren't enough bilingual social workers to serve the growing Spanish-speaking population in Texas," said Dr. King Davis, outgoing executive director of the foundation. "These scholarships will achieve two important goals: raise public awareness of the need to build the state's bilingual mental health workforce, and simultaneously begin to meet that need."
Scholarship recipients must be fluent in Spanish and English and commit to work in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship.
For the 2008-2009 school year, the foundation is offering up to $22,000 in scholarship funds at each of the 11 Texas graduate social work programs that are accredited or in candidacy for accreditation by the national Council on Social Work Education.
The schools must use the scholarship funds to cover full tuition and fees for recipients. Funds awarded by the foundation each year could vary, depending on the number of students receiving the scholarships at each graduate school.
Eligible schools are Abilene Christian University, Baylor University, Our Lady of the Lake University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas State University, University of Houston, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas-Pan American and The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Interested applicants should contact the schools of their choice directly for information about the scholarship program. Each school will manage its own application and language fluency assessment process and will submit a list of scholarship nominee finalists to the foundation. The foundation will announce the 2008 scholarship recipients in August.
The foundation worked closely with Dr. Ira Colby, professor and dean of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, to develop the program. Colby began a similar bilingual scholarship program at the college four years ago. The Houston program has been highly successful in increasing the cultural and language diversity of its graduate students. In 2008, the college received 83 applicants for five scholarships.
"The next generation of social workers will need to be informed about the needs of the Latino community if they are to be effective and truly an agent of change," Colby said. "These scholarships stand to substantially increase the number of students who choose to be social workers and who choose to make a difference in the Latino community."
The foundation hopes the scholarship program will be a model for other local, state and national organizations to support cultural and linguistic diversity in mental health professions.
The foundation was founded in 1940 by Miss Ima Hogg, daughter of former Texas Governor James Stephen 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 projects in Texas.