Hispanic Heritage Month Academic Conference to focus on formation of study abroad consortium

Representatives from area community colleges and universities will find out more Oct. 8 about a new initiative to increase the number of Texas students studying abroad for a semester in Mexico and Spain.


Vic Padelford
Information about the University of Houston-Victoria-led Consortium to Enhance Language Diversity Abroad, or CELDA, will be presented during the Fourth Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Academic Conference. The conference is part of a month-long celebration of Hispanic heritage taking place in Victoria through Oct. 15.


"Increasing the number of students studying abroad is essential in today's world," said UHV Director of International Programs Vic Padelford, who pointed out that only about 2 percent of U.S. college students are involved in international education every year. "CELDA is a way to prepare more students to be globally competent by the time they graduate."


The first part of the conference will be a luncheon in conjunction with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the UHV University Center, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.


Tim Hudson
UHV President Tim Hudson will welcome the group with a brief presentation about internationalization, or the effort to educate people about languages, cultures and economies outside of the U.S.


Robert Cortez and Ovidio Garcia from UHV's Letting Education Achieve Dreams (LEAD) program will talk about the role Victoria businesses play in encouraging their employees to complete bachelor's degrees. Padelford and a representative from Dallas-based Signature Service Corp. will focus on how to create more study abroad opportunities for U.S. students.


The second part of the conference will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room and will include dinner. Jim Holm, a UHV assistant professor of communication, will talk about how university classes can be modified to teach to students at a home campus or studying abroad.


"Studying abroad is helpful for students because it is important for all of us to learn how to deal with people of diverse backgrounds," he said. "There's no denying that we live in a global society."


Representatives from the community colleges and universities who attend the conference also will learn more about CELDA during the afternoon. This unique partnership will involve UHV and other universities within the University of Houston System working with up to 30 universities and community colleges, Padelford said. CELDA will offer semesters abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Granada, Spain, beginning in February.


The partnership will combine resources to allow smaller universities and community colleges to participate in semester-long study abroad programs for the first time. For example, a student from a college without a study abroad program will be able to enroll through a consortium college with a program and then have the 12 to 15 credits they earn transfer back to their home institution.


Padelford said this is a good time for the formation of CELDA because of a bill being considered by Congress. If funded, the bill will create the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation. The foundation will work to ensure that after 10 years, at least 1 million U.S. college students study abroad annually, which is five times the current number. The foundation will award money to higher education consortiums such as CELDA, which will, in turn, provide students with semester-long study abroad grants worth $7,500.


"We know that many universities and community colleges will choose to join us in this important initiative," Hudson said. "CELDA will provide undergraduates with a study abroad experience to help them successfully participate in the global economy and impact their ability to make intelligent career choices."


For more information about attending the academic conference, contact Padelford at 361-570-4186 or For information about events during Hispanic Heritage Month, call the LEAD office at 361-570-4893 or go to

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.

Paula Cobler