UT Austin Student is One of Five Statewide to Receive 2011 Hogg Foundation Scholarship
July 12, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas – University of Texas at Austin student Steven C. Smith is one of five outstanding Texas graduate students of social work to receive the prestigious 2011 Ima Hogg Scholarship for Mental Health.
Smith is a second-year student in the School of Social Work and plans to graduate in May 2012. After graduation, he wants to work with children and youth in Central Texas who may be at risk of developing a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.
Originally from Rosenberg, Texas, Smith said his desire to serve others led him to enter the Peace Corps after earning a bachelor’s degree in speech communications at Texas A&M University. While in the Peace Corps, he worked with at-risk youth in St. Lucia, West Indies, for two years. His experiences there led him to pursue a profession in helping others.
“One of my primary responsibilities was leading children though self-esteem exercises, which was helpful, but I lacked the clinical skills to meet the complex needs of these children,” he said.
So he decided to seek a master’s degree in International and Intercultural Management at the School of International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. He said the curriculum prepared him to address major problems like poverty, health disparities and education inequalities.
Smith decided to return to Texas after graduation when one of his professors challenged his class to address social problems in the U.S., rather than working abroad. “The professor said, ‘why not work in your own corner of the world?’ I agreed and have been working in my home state ever since,” he said.
During his first year in the graduate social work program, Smith provided mental health services to children and youth in Del Valle schools. During his second year internship, he will work at the Austin Child Guidance Center. He also is working toward becoming fluent in Spanish and is taking a Spanish immersion course for social workers in Costa Rica this summer.
“I want to develop a broad clinical skill set that can be applied in a variety of settings with children and families. For example, many children and adolescents who are resistant to therapy, especially boys, may respond well to outdoor/adventure therapy,” Smith said.
His scholarship comes at a time when Texas is facing critical shortages in the state’s mental health workforce. Texas ranks far below the national average in the number of mental health professionals per 100,000 residents. In 2009, 173 counties in Texas were designated as mental health profession shortage areas, and 40 Texas counties did not have a single social worker.
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awards up to five $5,000 scholarships annually to graduate social work students in Texas who plan to provide mental health services after graduation. The scholarship program was created in 1956 by Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg to attract students to mental health careers.
“These scholarships enable the recipients to finish their advanced studies and begin practicing their profession at a time when these skills and knowledge are sorely needed,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the foundation.
The Hogg 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. The foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research, and public education.