October, 2011(San Antonio) The UTSA Doctoral Program in English has been honored as one of America¹s top programs in increasing degree completion among Latinos at the associate's, bachelor's and graduate degree levels. The program, one of 16 finalists among 195 nominees, was recognized at a ceremony held recently in Washington, D.C. featuring U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha J. Kanter.
“For America to achieve President Obama's goal of becoming the world leader in college degrees by 2020, it is vital that we increase degree completion among Latinos,” said Kantner. “The successful and innovative programs recognized today are examples of institutions working to do their part, and I commend Excelencia in Education for helping institutional leaders, educators, and policy makers to understand these best practices.”
UTSA’s program was nominated by UTSA English Professor Norma E. Cantú and Jeanne Reesman.. Reesman currently leads the program as the Graduate Advisor of Record, and Cantú has been associated with the program since its approval in 2001.
Cantú believes several factors led to the program's selection. Sixteen
doctorates were awarded, eight of them to Latinos, ranking them among the nation¹s best. Cantú also cites UTSA's mission to educate students as a Hispanic Serving Institution and the program¹s unique service learning
“We offer them an opportunity, but don't require it. We just encourage them and support the work they do in the community,” said Cantú. “This gives them the sense that what they do is not the Œivory tower disconnect from the community. It is intimately tied so that the theoretical critical analysis and thinking done in the classroom is translated to something they do in the community.”
The service learning projects include volunteering at the Esperanza Peace
and Justice Center, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and the San Anto Cultural Arts Center. Additionally, doctoral students have assisted teenagers writing newsletters and taught immigrants to read, including Somali immigrants enrolled in a program at San Antonio Clark High School.
“This is the kind of program that can serve as a model for the future. We don't look at only American and British literature, we also look at comparative literature and culture studies as well as film, drama, performance and a variety of cultural expressions,” said Cantú.
Top honors in the associate¹s, baccalaureate's and graduate levels were awarded to El Paso Community College, Texas Tech University and Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico.
All finalists will be included in Excelencia in Education's annual publication “What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education” and will be available for download at www.EdExcelencia.org.