Posted on August 29, 2022 by Amanda Cerreto

AUGUST 29, 2022 — The Master of Social Work (MSW) program in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy and the M.S. in Environmental Science in the College of Sciences have been named finalists in the graduate category for the 2022 Examples of Excelencia program by Excelencia in Education. UTSA is the only university in the nation to have two finalists this year out of the group of 20.

Social work commencement Excelencia is the nation's premier authority in efforts to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. Every year, Examples of Excelencia begins with a national call for nominations encouraging individuals and programs to share initiatives accelerating Latino student success in higher education. Recognized programs are assessed on the strength of innovative, intentional, culturally relevant and effective high-impact practices tailored to Latino students and their communities.

Using these rigorous criteria, Excelencia chose 20 finalists from more than 93 program submissions from 17 states, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

"We strive for a relational, community-grounded approach, and our Latinx students are a central part of this community."

"We are both humbled and proud the MSW program is being recognized," said Amy Chanmugam , chair of the department. “We strive for a relational, community-grounded approach, and our Latinx students are a central part of this community. Excelencia also recognizes our continuous efforts in evaluating and improving the program, and we look forward to continuing to pursue innovation in supporting Latinx student success.”

The MSW program began in 2005 and has served more than 1,400 students since its inception—with 45% of those students identifying as Latino. In the 2020-21 academic year, 53% of the degrees were awarded to Latino students.

The program provides exemplary preparation for future Latino social workers. It balances the assets and cultural richness of the community with the dire unmet needs in health and human service areas, and trains students to take on the many challenges disproportionately impacting Latino families, including poverty and poor health.

Students in the MSW program learn to tackle society's most challenging problems through intervention with individuals, groups, families, organizations, communities, and by addressing policy. This holistic approach results in graduates who deeply understand social justice, cultural humility and all levels of ecology influencing a problem.

In addition to coursework, every student completes two 450-hour practicums. The program's Field Education Office intentionally builds partnerships to expand capacities of its Latino-majority student body. Students contribute over 60,000 service hours annually through community practicums.

“Serving San Antonio—a city where the majority of the population is Hispanic—at an urban-serving and Hispanic-serving institution makes this award all that much more powerful,” said Lynne Cossman , dean of the College for Health, Community and Policy. “We are honored to have been recognized by Excelencia as having a superb program in social work, as we have always known and recognized ourselves.”

The average licensure exam passage rate of UTSA MSW graduates is higher than the national average, according to the Association of Social Work Boards. In addition, U.S. News & World Report ranks UTSA's MSW in the top 100 graduate programs in the nation.'s 2022 assessment of the country's Top 51 Master's in Social Work programs, UTSA was the named the Best For Returning Students. The program took the No. 12 spot overall.

“Congratulations to the hard-working UTSA faculty, staff and students in the graduate programs of social work and environmental science for their recent recognition by Excelencia in Education,” said UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy . “As a founding member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities (HRSU), UTSA is committed to becoming a Hispanic Thriving university. The recognition by Excelenica in Education reinforces our momentum to support our Hispanic students and the greater community with high-quality programs in support of our dual mission of access and excellence.”

UTSA is a Hispanic Serving Institution where 57% of students identify as Hispanic. The university is taking bold steps to become a Hispanic thriving institution: a model HSI that advances social mobility and economic opportunities for Latino students and their communities.

In 2020, UTSA earned the prestigious Seal of Excelencia , a comprehensive certification recognizing the university's commitment and ability to purposefully implement policies, practices and systems to accelerate Latino student success. The university is currently ranked No. 2 among all 20 founding members of the HRSU, according to percentage of master's degrees awarded to Latino students.

Excelencia is answering the national call to identify and invest in evidence-based practices that improve college completion,” said Deborah Santiago , co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education. “These 20 programs are evidence-based exemplars led by practitioners working directly with students and community that go beyond enrollment to intentionally serve students on their journey to degree completion.”

Examples of Excelencia was created in 2005 and is the country's only national effort to recognize and promote evidence-based practices accelerating Latino student success in higher education.

Joining MSW as a finalist is the M.S. in Environmental Science program in the College of Sciences' Department of Integrative Biology.

Starting in 2015, the program's practices were intentionally developed to serve Latino students through an evaluation of success measures and by consulting with leading experts on how to enhance Latino student success across STEM fields. These measures led to outcomes that included creating professionalization opportunities designed explicitly for minoritized students, recruiting successful minority role-model professionals and developing workshops for faculty to specifically address the unique need for mentoring and validating Latino participants.

— Amanda Cerreto