SHP receives grant to improve minority, military graduation

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Dennis Blessing, Ph.D., project director, professor and associate dean of the School of Health Professions, said the goal is to remove barriers that keep minorities, military members and veterans from advancing beyond an associate degree.clear graphic
Dennis Blessing, Ph.D., project director, professor and associate dean of the School of Health Professions, said the goal is to remove barriers that keep minorities, military members and veterans from advancing beyond an associate degree. 

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Contact: Catherine Duncan, 210-567-2570

SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 27, 2012) — The School of Health Professions is working with community colleges and The University of Texas at San Antonio to encourage more underserved and underrepresented students to earn bachelor’s degree in respiratory care, clinical laboratory sciences and physical therapy.

The Student Tailored Educational Pathways project will focus on students from minority groups, active military members and veterans who are earning an associate degree or who already have one in order to advance their education.

The project includes three objectives:

  • Identify and better align two-year or associate-degree course work to increase the number of students transferring to bachelor’s or higher degree programs in the health professions;

  • Provide comprehensive retention services for the two-year or associate-degree students before, during and after they transfer to the bachelor’s degree program; and

  • Address workforce needs in the health professions by targeting military and veteran populations for degree-completion programs.
The program is being funded through a $372,180 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as part of its Minority Health Research and Education Grant Program. The two-year program began Sept. 1 and ends Aug. 31, 2014.

Eliminating barriers in higher education
Dennis Blessing, Ph.D., project director, professor and associate dean of the School of Health Professions, said the goal of the project is to remove the barriers that keep members of minority groups, military members and veterans from advancing beyond an associate degree in their education.

“The unemployment rate for these populations is higher than normal. We need to create mechanisms that will draw them to the Health Science Center so they will earn a bachelor’s degree. We are trying to attract those attending community college as well as those in the workforce who have an associate degree,” he said.

This project will allow the Health Science Center to build partnerships with the community colleges and with UTSA, Dr. Blessing said. “We also are looking to expand this outside of San Antonio. The more people we can bring to the health professions the better.”

Dr. Blessing said although the School of Health Professions already has been striving to help these underserved students transfer to bachelor’s-degree programs, this grant gives the funding needed to accomplish this goal.

Making lower-level courses count
“The state of Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Legislature are interested in bachelor’s-degree completion and completion in a timely manner. For those students coming out of associate-degree programs, we need to provide good vertical alignment with our programs so they have a smooth transition,” Dr. Blessing said. “Vertical alignment means the majority of the courses from the community college transfer to the bachelor’s program. We want to make sure the courses they take can be used for their bachelor’s degree.”

Catherine Ortega, Ed.D., co-director of the project, said that by earning a bachelor’s degree, military members, veterans and other non-traditional students can earn more, enjoy more challenging work and contribute more to health care.clear graphic
Catherine Ortega, Ed.D., co-director of the project, said that by earning a bachelor’s degree, military members, veterans and other non-traditional students can earn more, enjoy more challenging work and contribute more to health care. 

 

Provides better employment opportunities
Catherine Ortega, Ed.D., co-director of the project, said this is a military city, and retired or former military members have a higher unemployment rate than the general public.

“We need to do everything we can to get them to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program and then stay in school. For the non-traditional student, life can get in the way. They have a family and other obligations. Through this project, we want to create peer mentoring, faculty mentoring and support services,” said Dr. Ortega, a Distinguished Teaching Professor, associate professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy.

By earning their bachelor’s degree, these students can earn more and enjoy more challenging work, she said.

“There really is a need for qualified workers in the health professions. Military members, veterans and other non-traditional students can contribute so much more to the many health professions if they will stay in school and complete their degrees,” Dr. Ortega said.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 28,000 graduates. The $739.6 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.



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