Hogg Foundation Awards Scholarships to UTEP Graduate Students

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health has awarded $49,000 in scholarships to six social work students from The University of Texas at El Paso who are bilingual and have committed to careers in mental health.

Laura Carmona, Leticia Castillo, Diana Gómez, Graciela Rodriguez and Juanita Villa are the recipients of the Hogg Foundation Bilingual Mental Health scholarship for the 2012-13 academic year and received a total of $44,000. 

Carmona graduated with her bachelor’s degree in social work from UTEP in spring 2011. A research assistant in the University’s Social Work Department, she applied for the scholarship because of her interest in mental health. She said there is a critical need for bilingual practitioners and she hopes to contribute her skills to helping the underserved Hispanic population.

Castillo graduated from the University in May with her bachelor’s degree in social work. She worked at UTEP for 25 years and was encouraged by her supervisor to return to school and finish her degree. Castillo believes that the master’s program will give her the tools she needs to provide mental health services to families in the U.S.-Mexico border region. 

Gómez returned to the University for her master’s degree after receiving an undergraduate degree in social work in May 2011. She worked as a case manager with the Department of Aging and Disability Services, where she gained valuable experience working with different populations, including the elderly. She said the scholarship is an opportunity to learn more about the mental health issues affecting the elderly population, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Rodriguez received her bachelor’s degree in social work from UTEP in May. Her goal is to work with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which she feels is an underserved population because of the lack of bilingual practitioners.

Villa also earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from UTEP in the spring. She decided to pursue her master’s degree because she said the best way to serve her clients is to obtain as much knowledge and competency-based training as possible.

The scholarship covers full tuition and fees. Recipients must be fluent in English and a second language chosen by the graduate program, typically Spanish. They also must commit to working in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship. Scholarships are available at all 12 Texas graduate schools of social work that are accredited or pending accreditation by the national Council on Social Work Education.

The foundation also awarded a $5,000 Ima Hogg Foundation Scholarship to Daniel Fierro. The scholarship is awarded to an individual who has demonstrated a strong commitment to pursuing a career in mental health services after graduation.

Fierro graduated with his bachelor’s in social work from UTEP in May 2011. He has worked with the Center Against Family Violence and the El Paso County Juvenile Probation Department.  

“There is a critical shortage of bilingual social workers in the United States and this support from the Hogg Foundation represents their trust in UTEP’s ability to train bilingual social workers to practice in Texas and the rest of the region,” said Mark Lusk, Ed.D., professor and chair of UTEP's social work department.

Introduced in 2008, the bilingual scholarship program was created to help increase diversity in the Texas mental health workforce. 

“This innovative scholarship program directly addresses the critical need for a more culturally and linguistically competent mental health workforce,” said Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., M.D., executive director of the Hogg Foundation, based in Austin. “We are excited to infuse the workforce with talented and highly qualified students who have these added skills that are in such high demand now.”

Studies have shown that minority populations and those who speak a language other than English are underrepresented in social work and mental health professions in Texas. As a result, many people may not have access to mental health services that adequately meet their cultural and linguistic needs.

Language differences can be a huge barrier in providing effective mental health services. Even when language barriers are overcome, subtle nuances such as worldview, cultural beliefs, religion, family traditions and cultural norms can sometimes interfere with delivering effective treatment, Hogg Foundation officials said. The scholarships are one of many ways in which the foundation is working to increase cultural and linguistic awareness, knowledge and skills among mental health service providers in Texas.

The Hogg Foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research and public education. The foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.