UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing receives $3 million federal grant to further boost Hispanic engagement


The UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing has received a five-year, nearly $3 million Department of Education Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program grant to further boost Hispanic, low-income student engagement and wellness at a time of peak nursing demand.

Specifically, the grant aims to increase research and clinical mentorship, expand students’ wellbeing through mental health counseling and wellness programs, and improve their financial health. It will feature peer mentoring, supplemental instruction and tutoring, and also address a need for more Hispanic student success data.

Vanessa Bográn Meling, EdD, MBA

“Our project is designed to provide a comprehensive strategy for nursing students where they will share in high-impact experiences that enable holistic support, to meet the demand for front-line nurses compounded by the global pandemic, respond to a national nurse and nursing faculty shortage and support the wellbeing of future nurse leaders,” said Vanessa Bográn Meling, EdD, MBA, associate dean for admissions, student success and engagement and assistant professor for research with the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing. Meling is the principal investigator for the grant.

“By the end of this project,” she said, “the School of Nursing will have graduated over 1,960 Hispanic, baccalaureate-prepared nurses entering our health care system to fulfill our vision of making lives better by promoting health as an act of social justice.”

The Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program provides grants to assist Hispanic-serving institutions in recruiting and expanding educational opportunities for Hispanic students. The grants also are designed to expand and improve academic offerings, program quality and institutional stability, according to the federal agency.

As it is, the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, which has educated nurse leaders, clinicians, scientists and teachers to serve the diverse and underserved population of South Texas since 1969, enrolls more than 700 baccalaureate nursing students – 56% of whom are Hispanic, and 38% first-generation. The total grant amount for the five years is $2,997,990.

Meling said the project will yield meaningful, measurable outcomes through two primary activities:

  • Mentorship to enhance nursing students by increasing Hispanic nursing student engagement through two distinct faculty-to-student mentorship pathways – an undergraduate research pathway through research experiences and scholarly activities, and a clinical mentorship pathway through knowledge translation and clinical practice.
  • Wellness support to advance student nurses by supporting Hispanic student nurses through wellness and resilience programs, including mental health services, financial health literacy and campus employment, and by increasing student persistence to graduation through the development of a nursing student success data warehouse.

“This grant will have tremendous impact in delivering strategies designed for greater student retention and a sense of belonging, which are foundational for degree completion,” said Sonya Renae Hardin, PhD, MBA/MHA, APRN, FAAN, dean and professor of the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing.

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