EDINBURG - The first graduates of the Master of Science in Social Work program at The University of Texas-Pan American will participate in a commencement ceremony Saturday, May 13, in the UTPA Fieldhouse.
Thirteen students have completed all the necessary requirements for this degree and are eligible to march at the 6 p.m. ceremony.
The new master's degree program is the only such program in the Rio Grande Valley and is aimed at developing professional social workers.
"The new social work master's degree program is built on the successful undergraduate Bachelor of Social Work program at UTPA, which has been operating for more than 25 years and has produced more than 600 graduates," said Gary Villereal, associate professor of social work.
The new Master of Science in Social Work degree is a 60-semester credit hour program with a 900-hour field education component. The full-time program, which takes four semesters of study to complete, has the approval of the Council of Social Work Education and is in the formal process of obtaining full accreditation.
"With our first graduating class, the program is now eligible for full accreditation," Villereal said. "This graduating class is our doorway to full accreditation."
Nora Rodriguez, a social work graduate student from Brownville who will be the first graduating class, said the two-year program was one of the biggest challenges she has faced.
"The program shows a lot of promise for those wishing to pursue a career in social work," Rodriguez said. "This program has a focus on Mexican-American families and their culture, which really gives us an advantage for us here in the Rio Grande Valley."
Janie Hinojosa, a social work graduate student from Edinburg also in the first graduating class agreed.
"It was a tough program, but I wanted to help people, and this field of work does exactly that," Hinojosa said. "It's a way of being part of the helping process."
According to Raul Solis, assistant professor of social work, the level of social work practice will be raised to a much higher level, making for greater contributions to valley communities.
For more information, contact Villereal at the Department of Social Work at 956/381-3575.