By Raul Hinojosa Jr., Director of Community Engagement
This year, the UT Dallas Department of Community Engagement celebrates its 10th year of operation. The office was created in 2008 as part of the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, and was established with the goal of strengthening the University’s connection to historically underrepresented communities in North Texas. Since then, the Department of Community Engagement has hosted hundreds of college access programs reaching thousands of first generation and low-socioeconomic students and their parents.
The department launched several initiatives that have supported the University’s strategic priority to increase student diversity. In 2009, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board awarded the department a Work Study Mentorship Grant to hire UT Dallas undergraduate students to mentor high school students from Dallas and surrounding school districts. The student mentors help their mentees with completing admissions and financial aid applications, searching for scholarships, and finding the right college. Last academic year, the mentors assisted 1,797 complete 423 admissions applications and nearly 294 financial aid applications.
The Diversity Scholars Program was established in fall 2010 to serve students with a record of academic excellence and financial need. The students receive a $5,000 scholarship that is renewable for up to four years of study at UT Dallas. The Scholars also commit to participate in a student success program that includes monthly academic check-ins with a scholarship advisor, and programs and workshops to help students develop their leadership, cultural competence, and professional skills. The program has supported 213 students. In spring 2018, the 80 current scholarship recipients had a cumulative grade point average of 3.40.
These are only a handful of the initiatives the Department of Community Engagement has contributed to the impressive and evolving story of our university. There is still much work to be done and many opportunities to impact the lives of promising students in Texas.
We hope you will enjoy the inaugural edition of CONNECT, the UT Dallas Department of Community Engagement’s quarterly newsletter. The goal of this publication is to keep you informed of the department’s college access programs, and opportunities for you to connect to our work well into the future.