kirk building
Funding for this project will allow for the development of five new graduate programs and expand access to professional pathways.
The College of Health Science and Human Performance has some exciting news! Dr. Samuel Terrazas, Dr. Alanna Dennison, and Samantha Perales have been awarded $2.9 million by the U.S. Department of Education to help increase Hispanic and low-income postbaccalaureate, professional, and graduate degree attainment.

The project's goal is to increase enrollment, improve retention of Hispanic and low-income students, and increase graduation rates for this population. This is an important initiative given that less than 5% of Permian Basin residents hold a postbaccalaureate degree, compared to 11% in Texas and 13% nationwide, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

The funding will allow for the development of five new graduate programs and expand access to professional pathways for Hispanic and low-income students. The project will broaden equity-centered instruction and mentoring practices to create positive, inclusive, and identity-safe settings.

Dr. Samuel Terrazas, who has a Ph.D. in Social Work and is in his 12th academic year, expressed his excitement about the project's selection for funding: "I am surprised and pleased that our college will be able to enhance students' experiences and access to graduate education. This will provide support and training to better prepare students for graduate education and increase the number of professionals with a graduate-level degree."

Samantha Perales, who is a licensed master's social worker, holds a second master's degree in public administration, and is pursuing her doctorate in social work, echoed Dr. Terrazas' excitement: "I was very excited to learn that the project was selected for funding. There are so many great opportunities to offer graduate students in the region through this project."

This project will also address the need for diversity among educational professionals and teachers in the region. "The goals of this project will address this need in various ways," added Dr. Terrazas.

Samantha Perales, the Director of Field Education and a lecturer at UTPB for three years, shared what she loves about teaching: "My favorite thing about teaching is fostering the growth of students in the social work program. Preparing them for social work practice but also creating an environment where they tap into their strengths and leadership is inspiring."

"Congratulations to our colleagues on securing that critical funding from the Department of Education through this competitive process," says Dr. Raj Dakshinamurthy, Associate Vice President of Research. "Seeing all the hard work and effort pay off like this is incredible. This grant is an exciting and vital opportunity for UTPB's College of Health Sciences and Human Performance to enhance students' experiences and and access to graduate education. This is exactly what we do best at UTPB: put our students first and strive to improve their education and opportunities. Falcons Up!"