The University of Texas-Pan American will increase its educational outreach by partnering with The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and Laredo Community College to offer distance education courses for area students, which will lead to a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree or a Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) degree from UTPA.
The three campuses entered into a formal collaboration agreement on Friday, Sept. 18 during a signing ceremony at the UTPA campus, which cemented each institutions commitment to providing educational opportunities of the highest quality for the South Texas region.
Laredo Community College President Dr. Juan L. Maldonado said the accord between LCC and UTPA will give Laredo and area residents the opportunity to enroll in an excellent social work program without having to leave town.
"Students will be able to save money by not having to commute and/or relocate to Edinburg to benefit from the social work program," Maldonado said. "And Laredo will be able to develop a group of well-trained, highly qualified social workers to meet the community's needs. Laredo Community College is excited about the beneficial impact this accord will bring to the community."
UTB/TSC President Dr. Juliet V. Garcia said the partnership will bring more options to South Texas students looking to broaden their educational backgrounds.
"I hope this is the beginning of many more (collaborations) yet to come," Garcia said.
UTB/TSC Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Dr. Daniel Heimmermann, who had been working closely with UTPA's Department of Social Work chair and professor Dr. Hector Diaz to make this partnership a reality, said the initiative will have far-reaching implications for Brownsville-area students.
"We are pleased to able to partner with our friends at UTPA to offer students of the Lower Rio Grande Valley access to accredited degrees in social work. We are well aware of the tremendous demand for undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work and for licensed social workers in our area. I highly commend the initiative of Dr. Hector Diaz, chair of UTPA's Department of Social Work, who I initially met at a University of Texas System Leadership Institute seminar in Austin this past fall," said Heimmermann.
Diaz said the collaboration between the campuses will be fully implemented in the summer of 2010. Currently UTPA is offering courses via teleconference to eight master's-level students from the Laredo area.
"This is a great accomplishment because we are providing social work education to people in South Texas," Diaz said. "In Southeast Texas UTPA is going to be the key institution in social work education."
"We have a big need for graduate social work education in South Texas and The University of Texas-Pan American is the only one that has had accredited programs for many years. At the same time we have very few bachelor's of social work programs in South Texas," Diaz added.
The closest social work programs Diaz said are at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Texas A&M International University in Laredo, which will shut down its social work program this May.
Diaz said the bachelor's- and master's-level programs will be delivered mostly through distance education so the costs will be minimal.
"We will be teaching classes through Blackboard, videoconference, teleconference, and a reduced number of courses will be taught face to face by adjuncts or people we will hire to teach these courses. Both UTB/TSC and Laredo Community College are giving us access to their facilities for free. So basically we have to pay for faculty and their travel costs. I think the cost is going to be minimal compared to the potential benefit," Diaz said.
The Council on Social Work Education accredits both the BSW and MSW programs at UTPA. UTPA's bachelor's program prepares students for generalist social work practice while the MSSW program offers concentrations in advanced practice with Latino individuals, families and groups and administrative and community practice. More than 200 students are currently enrolled in both the BSW and MSW programs at UTPA and 13 full-time and five adjunct faculty members instruct courses.
To learn more about the UTPA's Department of Social Work, visit www.utpa.edu/socialwork.