A&M Commerce Students Receive Bilingual Scholarship

Mar 8, 2012

COMMERCE - Texas A&M University-Commerce social work graduate students Mirna Guzman Cervantes and Johnny Rodriguez have been awarded scholarships by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to support bilingual mental health services in Texas.

The foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.

Scholarship recipients receive full tuition and fees. They must be fluent in English and a second language chosen by the graduate program, typically Spanish. They also must commit to working in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship. Scholarships are available at all 12 Texas graduate schools of social work that are accredited or pending accreditation by the national Council on Social Work Education.

Students in the Master of Social Work program learn to engage in social work practice with individuals, families, small groups, organizations and communities.

Cervantes earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of North Texas. Her experience working with children, teens, the elderly, the homeless and minority populations, as well as her passionate commitment to social work as a profession, motivated her to pursue a career in mental health. She believes that a master’s in social work will help her meet her career goals to be an advocate, a voice and a lifeline to those with mental illness.

“Through social work, I plan to focus on community resources that we currently lack for consumers and improve and implement programs that will address these barriers and shortcomings in mental health,” Cervantes said. “I want to impact the community by educating and informing society about mental illness and fighting stigma and discrimination.”

As a casework supervisor with Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Rodriguez manages and guides 25 volunteer staff in advocating for abused and neglected children. He began his career as a bilingual conservatorship worker with the Texas Department of Family Protective Services after receiving a bachelor of arts in political science from Baylor University. He is pursuing his master’s in social work to improve his direct services skills, gain clinical knowledge and better serve the community.

“From my experience at CASA and department of family protective services, I know there is a huge need to develop and offer mental health services with the Hispanic Spanish-speaking population,” Rodriguez said.

“By furthering my education with a master’s in social work, I hope to develop those skills necessary to implement or create a service to meet the needs and challenges for mental health services, especially in this population.”

Studies have shown populations of color and those who speak a language other than English are under-represented in social work and mental health professions in Texas. As a result, many people may not have access to mental health services that adequately meet their cultural and linguistic needs.

Language differences can be a huge barrier in providing effective mental health services. Even when language barriers are overcome, subtle nuances such as world view, cultural beliefs, religion, family traditions and cultural norms can sometimes interfere with delivering effective treatment. The scholarships are one of many ways in which the Hogg Foundation is working to increase cultural and linguistic awareness, knowledge and skills among mental health service providers in Texas.

“The Department of Social Work is grateful for the Hogg Foundation Scholarship for Bilingual M.S.W. students,” said Dr. Brenda Moore, social work department head. “Due to their generous contribution, these two students are able to pursue their degrees. Upon graduation, they will have many opportunities to use their bilingual abilities along with the skills, knowledge and values of the social work profession to help people in the mental health field. We have one more year of commitment from the Hogg Foundation for any new students who are interested in applying to the M.S.W. program.”

To learn more about the social work programs at Texas A&M University-Commerce, visit or contact the social work department office at or 903-468-8100.