UHV selected for grant to boost minority participation in health professions

The University of Houston-Victoria will use a $300,601 state grant to recruit more community college graduates into its bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that focus on physical and mental health.

Fred Litton

By creating an easier pathway to UHV, more students from underrepresented minority groups in Texas are expected to participate in health professions programs. UHV offers bachelor’s degrees in health studies and kinesiology, and a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

“There is a need in Texas for more African American and Hispanic students to obtain advanced degrees to work in health fields,” said Fred Litton, dean of the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “This is an important initiative, and I’m glad UHV is part of it.”

The grant was awarded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Division of Academic Quality and Workforce under the Minority Health Research and Education Grant Program. The grant period began on Thursday and runs through May 31, 2018.

The pathway is two-fold. First, UHV is partnering with Victoria College to recruit students after they earn an associate degree.

Wayne Smith

“The programs at VC and UHV will be aligned,” said Wayne Smith, a UHV assistant professor of counselor education. “Students can easily jump from VC to UHV.”

High school or community college graduates who want to pursue a UHV master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling can first choose a bachelor’s degree that will move them toward the counseling program, Smith said.

The other pathway is with community agencies. UHV is partnering with the Victoria County Public Health Department, Citizens Medical Center, Gulf Bend Center, Mid-Coast Family Services and South Texas Children’s Home.

Three pathway activities will start in fall 2017 and include:

  • Mentorship – Students will partner with a UHV graduate assistant for career guidance and assessment. Each month, the student will meet with the mentor to talk about his program and career.
  • Monthly education sessions – Each of the community partners will host a session where students will learn about the agency and how to be successful.
  • Job shadowing – The students will spend time following employees at the agencies.

“We want our graduates to be successful when they head out into the real world,” Smith said. “This three-part model will give them skills, experience and guidance that will help them be successful.”

The first step is getting students into the health professions programs. To help with that effort, UHV will use the grant money to hire a pathway project coordinator and three graduate assistants. Applications are being accepted for the coordinator positions.

The coordinator will set up recruitment events and education sessions, supervise graduate assistants and build partnerships with community colleges. Smith will talk with representatives from Coastal Bend College, Wharton County Community College and Houston Community College about arranging similar pathways.

“While we are starting with Victoria College, this model could be effective at a number of schools,” Smith said. “Long term, we also could look into expanding the subjects to include our teaching and nursing degrees.”

The other portion of the grant money will be spent on laptops, training, promotional products, T-shirts, orientation events and creating a website.

Smith said many people contributed to UHV receiving the grant. Liping Wei, an assistant professor of curriculum & instruction, is the co-project director. UHV assistant professors Katherine Bacon, Raymond Tucker and Sherry Vafa; and Sara Rodriguez, a former visiting assistant professor of health studies, also contributed. Lionel “Javier” Cavazos, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, will provide the necessary external statistical analysis.

Angela Hartmann, UHV grants and contracts director; Delinda Karle, UHV grant development coordinator; and Sophia Kameitjo, Victoria College grants development director, also played key roles, Smith said.

“This was a team effort that could not have been accomplished without widespread support from the education school and university,” Smith said.

This project is supported by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board grant number 17205 titled, Minority Health Research and Education Grant Program – Allied Health Pathways to Success, for $300,601. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by THECB or the State of Texas.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro