The St. David's Foundation has awarded grants of more than $2 million to the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin to increase the number of social workers serving critical roles in Central Texas.
With a $2 million grant the largest in the school's history the foundation has endowed fellowships for bilingual master's degree students to meet the growing need for Spanish-speaking social workers.
The bilingual program grant allows the school to accelerate recruiting and preparing bilingual social work students for careers in the health and mental health care workforce.
In addition, a $50,000, one-year grant will fund fellowships for master's degree students studying to work with older adults, another area of increasing need.
"This is a historic moment for the School of Social Work and our Master of Science in Social Work program," Dean Luis H. Zayas said. "The generosity and foresight of the St. David's Foundation will help us send trained and skilled social workers to provide desperately needed services to communities throughout Central Texas.
"It is a legacy of St. David's Foundation and the School of Social Work that will help improve the health of our communities, and its influence will be felt for decades to come."
The school's Master of Science in Social Work program is ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. This endowment will sustain the bilingual scholars program, distributing $10,000 each year to 10 master's students who intend to provide mental health services to Spanish-speaking clients in Central Texas.
The need for social workers who speak Spanish is acute. More than 31 percent of Travis County residents speak a language other than English in the home, and an increasing number of clients request Spanish-speaking social workers each year in Central Texas social service agencies.
"There are standing requests from agencies for School of Social Work interns who speak Spanish," said Jane Kretzschmar, clinical professor and assistant dean for the school's master's degree programs.
Students from the School of Social Work serve more than 200,000 hours in internships at 350 Central Texas agencies each year. Upon graduation, many go to work in the area and in other parts of Texas.
Since 2008 the school has offered fellowships to bilingual students through funding from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. As part of its grant, the Hogg Foundation challenged the school to find a sustainable way to continue the fellowships beyond 2012.
At $10,000, each fellowship would cover about 78 percent of tuition for one year of the master's degree program for an in-state student. The 10 fellowship students will provide about 5,000 hours a year as interns in the Central Texas community.
The second grant goes to the School of Social Work's Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education (GRACE) program. The program will use the $50,000 award to offer fellowships to 10 students in the first year of their master's degree studies and to five students in their second year.
"The overarching goal is to use this fellowship to increase the number of professional social workers working with older adults," said Sarah Swords, a clinical assistant professor and director of the program. "I am so thrilled the St. David's Foundation has chosen to partner with us because it shows their commitment to workforce development in health care for older adults."
The program, which was previously funded by the Hartford Foundation and the Mitte Foundation, is a collaboration between the school and agencies that serve older adults to offer students the opportunity to learn social work practices with older adults.
About St. David's Foundation
As a joint owner of St. David's HealthCare, St. David's Foundation invests its proceeds from the hospitals directly back into the community to improve health and health care for all Central Texans.
In 2012 the Foundation will invest $39 million in the community through grants to safety net clinics, agencies serving older adults, mental health agencies, support for healthy living initiatives, the St. David's Dental Program, scholarships for students pursuing health care careers, and to fund health care education and research.
For more information on St. David's Foundation, visit www.stdavidsfoundation.org.