A university in Texas has announced a new degree for teaching Spanish

St. Thomas Houston University plans to launch a new online associate degree program taught entirely in Spanish to appeal to the city’s growing Latino community starting spring 2023. Students who enroll and complete the program will graduate with a degree in applied sciences. In liberal research.

The Catholic University student body, a Hispanic-serving organization, has 42 percent Latino, which reflects the city’s population, and 44.5 percent Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Administrators believe the program will draw a whole new population into the local community that other colleges and universities may ignore. It aims to serve both local Spanish speakers who want to earn a degree but cannot speak fluent English and potential students who want to strengthen their Spanish skills fluent in English.

Emiliano Gonzalez, chair of teaching and learning and director of university curriculum and instruction, says there is a “great need” for a full Spanish program in Houston, especially among older immigrants who want to earn a degree to improve their education and better secure it. Jobs He noted that the university had previously launched a postgraduate degree program in Pastoral Theology, taught in Spanish, which has “positioned” and has grown from 30 students enrolled in at least 250 students over the years.

“There’s a big, big market for the program out there,” said Gonzalez, who works on the advisory committee on the development of the associate degree program. He hopes that older members of the Latino community will be particularly interested.

“When they come here, a lot of the time they come to work and they really neglect their studies because they want to take their family forward,” he said. “Later, when they are established and more, they want to continue.”

The University of Colbay School of Innovation and Professional Studies began offering online associate degree programs in 2019 that attracted older students from their early 40’s to mid-40’s, said Justo Garcia, an admissions consultant at the school.

For Garcia, who grew up in Houston and graduated from St. Thomas Houston University, the job is close to home.

These students are going to be “mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts – those who want to go back to school or get opportunities that they did not get before,” he said. “More personally, I think of my mother. I miss my older siblings. I think of people in my family who speak Spanish but have misconceptions about access and school, maybe lack of opportunities or lack of awareness about resources and opportunities. ”

Applicants for the new Associate Degree Program will go through an interview process to measure their Spanish and English language skills and gain an idea of ​​their career plans or interests in pursuing a postgraduate degree. The university plans to embed English as a second language course in the curriculum for interested students who plan to pursue a four-year degree or who would otherwise benefit by improving their English skills. It is hoped that some students will continue their undergraduate degree program at St. Thomas Houston University.

Administrators plan to offer courses that focus on Latin culture and literature in Central and South America.

“We have to do something that is relevant that they can relate to, because if they’re just going to study Shakespeare, we’re going to lose a lot of people,” Gonzalez said.

Nicole McGill Walters, dean of the School of Innovation and Professional Studies, said she hopes to attract 100 students to the program in her inaugural semester, but so far, there is no enrollment limit for the online program.

“I don’t want to cap it,” he said. “Our faculty and facilities are ready to take on as many as needed.”

Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excellency in Education, an organization focused on improving academic outcomes for Latino students, says St. Thomas Houston University is not the first American university to offer a degree or certificate program in Spanish, in whole or in part. For example, South Mountain Community College in Phoenix offers a Spanish-language nursing fellowship program to train nurses to better serve the Latino community.

He believes the trend began with higher education institutions in Puerto Rico, including Anna G. There is Mendez University, which began offering bilingual satellite programs in the United States about 20 years ago.

Santiago sees the growth of these programs as a response to the need for manpower. As Latino communities have grown in the United States, more industries and workplaces have been benefited by skilled workers in the Spanish language, especially in areas such as nursing or teaching.

These programs are “responsive to the needs of the community, to strengthen the workforce so that those who work in hospitals or emergency care can find ways to connect with clients,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. I think it’s responsive to the market and the community around it. “

He noted, however, that a program offered at a Catholic university could have additional appeal to the predominantly Catholic community. When he co-founded Excellencia, he talked to Latino students and parents about their college decision and noticed that some parents felt more comfortable sending their children to college if they joined a Catholic institution.

“We’re not in the same place – which was really the case 30 years ago – but I think it’s interesting to have a little bit more faith,” he said.

He is interested in seeing how the new program at St. Thomas Houston University works and praises it as a “student-centered” initiative that could inspire similar programs.

“We’ll see what those numbers look like and how durable the program is, because we think it could come from other things,” he said.

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