Grant Helps HU’s Social Work Program Expand Access


Cristina Durán

Las Vegas, NM – Hispanic and low-income students will have increased access to social work fields thanks to a pilot project funded by a five-year grant at New Mexico Highlands University.

The $3-million Developing Hispanic Serving Institution grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help the university’s Facundo Valdez School of Social Work undertake a number of initiatives to increase student engagement and graduation rates in underserved populations, helping meet a forecasted demand for more social workers.

“The grant will allow us to increase our efforts to recruit and retain Hispanic and low-income students by offering more intensive outreach and support services, allowing the School of Social Work to focus squarely on these students’ needs and address them with trained, caring, and knowledgeable faculty and staff,” said Cristina Durán, dean of Highlands’ School of Social Work.

During the project term, social work faculty members can volunteer to expand the course offerings in distance education, allowing students to complete those courses on their own custom-designed schedule. Additionally, grant funds will be used to start an endowment fund for student scholarships.

“We are happy that the Department of Education has selected our social work program to launch a project that addresses many of the issues colleges in the country are facing today,” Highlands President Sam Minner. “New Mexico Highlands University believes education not only transforms the lives of students, but of their families and communities as well. This grant speaks to the heart of our mission in a broad manner.”

The Facundo Valdez School of Social Work, the oldest accredited social work program in New Mexico, has a strong focus on serving Hispanic and Native American communities with unique programs like its bilingual/bicultural concentration, Durán said.

More information about the Facundo Valdez School of Social Work is online at