UIW Welcomes U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Visit

March 22, 2024

UIW had the honor of welcoming Ruth Ryder, U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, to the School of Rehabilitation Sciences on Thursday, March 14. Ryder traveled from Washington D.C. to meet with UIW and Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) students who eagerly shared the work they had accomplished as the result of a $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Program that the two local institutions received last year.  

With the grant, the UIW Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program, in collaboration with the OLLU School of Psychology (OLLU SP) program, established partnerships with Southside Independent School District and South San Independent School.  

"The overarching goal threaded throughout the grant initiatives is to increase the capacity of Southside ISD and South San Antonio ISD to meet the mental health needs of students," said Dr. Marcie Campbell, UIW assistant professor and principal investigator.  

These strategies, which remain underway, aim to accomplish this goal by increasing the number of mental health providers available, creating evidence-based trainings, providing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, increasing the number of providers from diverse backgrounds and creating sustainability of the programs after the completion of the grant. A large portion of the grant funding provides scholarships to UIW OTD and OLLU SP students in exchange for working in the school districts to complete the required training for their education. 

University students who gained valuable experience for themselves, while helping local school children, prepared poster presentations for Ryder’s visit, detailing the impact the grant made in the lives of students they had the opportunity to work with. Ryder met with each group of students, asking questions about their projects and encouraging the students to continue their worthy work.  

After the poster presentations, Ryder received a tour of the School of Rehabilitation Science, meeting with faculty who explained the purpose of each unique lab and piece of equipment. She then took the time to ask each student why they chose to pursue careers in occupational therapy and listened to each student’s story intently.  

“So many of you talked today about the work that you’re doing to help kids understand who they are and be themselves,” Ryder told the students. “So thank you for your work.” 

“The most impactful part for the students was that a policymaker took time to come see what they’re working on and that they got to meet someone who had a direct influence in the outcomes that they’re having,” said Campbell after Ryder’s visit.  

The grant will continue to fund the work of the UIW OTD and OLLU SP programs with SAISD and SSISD over the next four years.