Dr. Patrick Lynch, College of Education professor at The University of Texas-Pan American, has always admired the rich culture and traditions of the American Indians and Hispanics which led him to helping students of those cultures obtain master's and doctoral degrees.
Lynch, a professor in the Department of School Administration and Supervision, was instrumental in the establishment of the UTPA Hispanic Border Leadership Institute (HBLI) which mirrored a program he created in 1970 for American Indians at Penn State University known as the American Indian Leadership Program (AILP).
"The goal of the program is to turn out people who know how and want to change society for more equality of opportunity in education for Hispanic kids," Lynch said. "It's quite a unique opportunity for full-time students to get ready to create a new kind of education system and schooling."
He was the primary creator of the proposal that helped acquire HBLI for the University. The program opened its doors in 1999 and is a consortium of eight higher education institutions serving five southwestern states: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation funds the HBLI at UTPA. It prepares educational leaders in part by providing doctoral fellowships to eligible Hispanics in the College of Education.
The UTPA program currently has five students under full-time fellowships funded by HBLI and UTPA, said program director Dr. Maricela Oliva. Another student takes classes as part of the HBLI cohort, but he is not a full-time student and does not receive fellowship support.
"The program has several goals, one of which is to increase the number of Latino students who receive their doctorates," Oliva said. "Nationally, this number is very low, with only 2 percent of all doctorates going to Latinos, although the percentage in the overall population is much higher and growing.
"Secondly, the expectation is that as more Latinos receive doctorates, they will encourage necessary changes in how education is conducted to improve outcomes for students."
The first group of doctoral students in the HBLI at UTPA will graduate in May 2002.
Lynch returned to Penn State in late March for the 30th anniversary celebration of the AILP, where he was honored and spoke to more than 300 Indian-Americans about the program and its development over the years. AILP has already graduated more than 200 Indian-Americans with master's degrees and 56 doctoral degrees.