St. David’s Foundation donates $2 million to UT School of Social Work

Joan Vinson

An increased need for bilingual health care workers in Central Texas prompted a Texas organization to donate more than $2 million to the UT School of Social Work to attract bilingual students into the school.

The St. David’s Foundation, which invests proceeds from St. David’s HealthCare for the Central Texas community, granted the School of Social Work these funds to bring in more bilingual students to work with Texas’ growing Hispanic population. The bilingual program grant is the largest grant in the school’s history. Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work, said this grant is thinking ahead in terms of what the Texas population is going to need in the future by making social workers available to Spanish-speaking families.

“This is an extraordinarily generous decision by the St. David’s Foundation,” Zayas said. “We have a tag line at the school that says ‘For every one social worker, thousands of families will be touched."

This award will distribute $10,000 each year to ten master’s students in the bilingual scholars program, which trains students who intend to work with the Spanish-speaking population in Central Texas to provide mental health care services. In addition to the more than $2 million award, a $50,000 grant was given to fund masters’ degree students in the Gerontology Resources and the Aging Community in Education program who are working with older adults. Ten students will receive $10,000 the first year, and five students in their second year.

Social work professor Michael Lauderdale said a large part of Texas’ population is Hispanic and it is important to know how to serve this group by understanding their language and culture.

“This grant will certainly affect the kinds of students coming into social work,” Lauderdale said. “I am hopeful that this funding will bring students in that have a background in that area and want to work with this population.”

Roberto Rodriguez, senior program officer for Healthy Living and Healthy Futures at St. David’s Foundation, said the endowment at the school builds upon an initiative initially funded by the Hogg Foundation to provide scholarships to bilingual social work students.

“We are pleased to partner with the UT School of Social Work to create in perpetuity significant scholarship support for bilingual students who can provide care to an increasingly diverse population in Central Texas,” Rodriguez said. “We believe this scholarship support is an important strategy for recruiting more qualified students into the field of social work by lessening the economic barriers to their graduate studies.”

Rodriguez said St. David’s Foundation also funds many behavioral-health-providing agencies in the community, many of which rely on licensed clinical social workers to provide cost-effective mental health services to populations in need.

“Many of these agencies serve a large Spanish-speaking population, and we have often heard from them about the need for more bilingual social workers to best serve the community need,” Rodriguez said.