College of Public Service Receives Houston Endowment Support
UHD Department of Urban Education Awarded $850,000 Grant
By Sheryl E. Taylor
It may seem obvious to anyone that higher education is dedicated to student success. However, student success begins long before college. Ultimately, it starts with teachers.
The need for diversity is essential, even critical.
The College of Public Service’s Department of Education was recently awarded $850,000 from Houston Endowment for its Diversity, Access, Inclusion, Representation (D.A.I.R.) to Teach Program. The Houston Endowment is a private foundation that partners with others in the nonprofit public and private sector to improve the quality of life for the residents of Greater Houston.
“The goal of this grant is to determine the barriers to people becoming teachers from diverse, low-income backgrounds. And, how to overcome those barriers,” said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Dean of the College of Public Service. “The ultimate goal is to diversify the teaching profession. We know there’s a lot of research that proves representation in the classroom makes a huge difference in outcomes. This grant is to help our students be successful while diversifying the teaching field.”
The D.A.I.R. to Teach Program directly seeks to address these barriers by:
- Identifying systemic barriers that exist in the education system through a learning tour that includes students, families, educators, and community members,
- Providing accurate information about the teaching field to high school students, including a need for the diversification of educators and the benefit of teaching,
- Developing a guided pipeline from high school to certification with multiple touchpoints with the college, university, and district along the way, and
- Increasing equity for success through mentorship, financial support, and creating multiple guided pathways from high school to UHD, and enabling students to return to their home district as a certified teacher.
“Unfortunately, throughout our society there are systemic barriers that limit access and equitable opportunities for success for students of color and other underrepresented populations,” said Dr. Matthew Fugate, Assistant Professor of Urban Education. “These barriers exist from early childhood through post-secondary education.”
It may or may not come as a surprise that there is a significant education disparity that exists in the representation of teachers of Color in classrooms across the U.S. – approximately 82 percent of the teaching workforce being white female.
“Even though the teaching demographics across Texas are only slightly better with 61 percent white teachers, there is a clear need for a greater diversity in the teaching workforce reflective of the backgrounds and experiences of students in the schools,” said Dr. Cristal Burnett Sánchez. “Nevertheless, researchers have demonstrated that students of Color have more positive social-emotional, academic, and behavioral outcomes when they are in classrooms led by teachers who look like them.”
Surprisingly, “more recent research has shown that all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, demonstrated higher levels of self-efficacy when in a classroom with a teacher of Color,” added Fugate.
The mission and vision of the program is clear – student success equals diversity, inclusion, and representation in the classroom. It also aligns with Houston Endowment’s mission to “make grants eligible to organizations whose work advances its vision of a vibrant region where all have the opportunity to thrive.”
“D.A.I.R. to Teach benefits the individuals who take part in the program – the college, university, and our partner school districts,” said Burnett Sánchez, Chair of the Department of Urban Education in the College of Public Service. “Future teachers who complete the program will reflect diverse backgrounds and serve as role models for their students, colleagues, and communities. Most importantly, graduates of the program will benefit all the students whose lives they touch.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.