As we near the end of celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, I would like to recognize the important contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. This national recognition first started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. On August 17, 1988, it was enacted into law and is now celebrated every year from September 15 to October 15.
This year’s theme is “Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future.”
The theme encourages Hispanic and Latinx Americans to be proud of their history, lineage and contributions and to look forward to a dynamic future full of hope and promise. This month also gives all Americans the opportunity to learn more about Hispanic and Latinx Americans’ rich culture, vibrant history, service and contributions to our great nation. Hispanic and Latinx Americans serve in many roles, such as civil rights leaders, politicians, military officers, educators, doctors, lawyers, science pioneers, first responders, and of course Social Workers.
As the Hispanic and Latinx population continues to grow, the demand for culturally competent Social Workers increases too. Here at the UTA School of Social Work we pride ourselves on the rich culture and diversity of our students, alumni, staff and faculty. Nearly one-third of our Social Work students identify as Hispanic and Latinx with our faculty and staff reflecting the same diversity.
In 2014, UTA became the largest public four-year university in Texas to meet U.S. Department of Education requirements to be labeled a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). UTA is one of only 14 universities in the nation to achieve designations of both HSI and Carnegie R-1: “Very High Research” in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
Diversity and Cultural Competence is one of the core tenets of effective Social Work Practice. Therefore, we have faculty conducting research helping to inform evidence-based practices in our curriculum on issues affecting Hispanic and Latinx communities such as with integrated health care, disease management, mental health disparities, behavioral health issues, aging, children and families. We have faculty and students conducting research here in Texas, in Mexico, in Puerto Rico and across the nation. Last year, for the first time we had the opportunity to send students to Belize as part of the new Social Work study abroad program.
As we approach the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, I ask you to reflect upon the mission and vision of our School of promoting a just society. Especially during this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we must continue to work diligently to address the concerns and issues not only in the Hispanic and Latinx communities with health disparity and social injustice, but across our nation.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion makes us stronger.
Scott D. Ryan
Dean and Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Arlington