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With the demand for social workers due to grow by more than 35 percent in West Texas in the next few years, the University of Texas at El Paso will launch a Master of Social Work program in 2010 called Social Work in a Border Region. Though UT Pan American offers a program in Social Work with Hispanic Families, UTEP’s will be the first in the nation to specialize in border issues. Courses will focus on traditional social-worker problems — domestic violence, drug addiction, physical and mental health, unemployment, poverty — but in a binational context, where identity is based on culture and language rather than citizenship. Students will also receive training in how to deal with problems specific to the region, such as human trafficking and life in families which have members dwelling on both sides of the border.

“This environment requires us to adjust our curriculum to deal with these problems specifically; we need more professionals who understand these problems,” says Mark W. Lusk, UTEP professor and chair of the Department of Social Work and associate dean of the College of Health Sciences, who will direct the program. Lusk notes that in El Paso — as in other border cities from San Diego to Tucson to Brownsville — poverty rates are double and triple the national average, more people lack health insurance, salaries are much lower and the risk of health and economic insecurity much higher. “But these problems are increasingly evident elsewhere, in states such as Iowa and Georgia, where the Hispanic populations are also growing rapidly. This program will serve Texas in important ways, and we’ve been getting tremendous support for it from all over the state, but it’s being watched in other places as well.”

In The Number Cruncher, former state demographer Steve Murdoch documents the stunning growth of the Hispanic population in Texas, and explains some of its potential consequences. In Faces of the New Texas, educators from UT El Paso, UT Brownsville, UT Pan American and Texas A&M discuss why it’s essential to all of us that these new Texans have equal access to higher education.

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Two representatives of Texas A&M University join the University of Texas innovators profiled on the State of Tomorrow™ Web site. Chemical physicist Dudley R. Herschbach, 1986 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, believes children are the ideal scholars because they’re naturally curious and uninhibited about experimenting; he touts programs that make science more interesting and accessible to students and the general public alike. Before President George W. Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense and President Barack Obama retained him there, Robert M. Gates was the president of A&M; worried about declining enrollment figures for math and science students even as globalization was making these studies more crucial to our economy, he advocated an education push comparable to the nation’s successful 1960s drive to put a man on the moon.

The two Aggies are in good company. Citing the extent to which science students are forced nowadays to memorize information and regurgitate answers, former president of the National Academies of Science and current editor of the journal Science Bruce Alberts recently denounced such science education techniques. Alberts called for a teaching “revolution” that would de-emphasize the need for test-driven memorization in favor of inquiry-based learning. And the University of Houston has initiated an online program allowing middle-school math and science teachers to earn a master’s degree for free. The Integrated Science, Math and Reflective Thinking (iSMART) degree is yet another higher-education program, such as the University of Texas’ UTeach, designed to create better teachers to inspire and develop the scientists, engineers and technologists of tomorrow.

The Innocence Project of Texas is part of a national program that uses newly discovered evidence (primarily DNA) to exonerate people behind bars who have been wrongly convicted of crimes. With the help of students from UT Arlington, more prisoners have been exonerated in Dallas County than in any other county in the nation. Under the supervision of Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Dr. John Stickels, some 40–60 students are participating in the project at any given time, many of them criminology/criminal justice majors who earn course credits for their roles in attempting to win freedom for the wrongly convicted.

In Shadow of a Doubt we explored how law students on another campus, the University of Houston, research applications to help determine which cases the Innocence Project takes on, and how those cases are then argued in court. The project, in the words of Stickels, “…applies through practice what they’re learning in the classroom.”

Harvard’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation has named UT Austin’s UTeach Natural Sciences program one of the Top 50 Innovations in American Government. UTeach prevailed among some 600 applicants. Six of the 50 finalists will be honored with an Innovations in American Government Award. UTeach, a program to train K–12 math and science teachers, is recognized for the increased size of its graduating class (now up to 70 annually); a superior record of teacher performance and retention (80 percent of its graduates are still teaching after five years, 10 percent higher than the national average); and the national growth of replica programs (13 colleges and universities have received grants to start their own curricula patterned after UTeach).

Using modern learning theories and considerable hands-on classroom experience, UTeach prepares college math and science majors to become K–12 teachers as they themselves are advancing their own math and science educations. In The Best & the Brightest, UTeach creator Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin, and Austin middle school science teacher and UTeach graduate Elizabeth Abernathy explain the origins of UTeach and how the program works.

State of Tomorrow “takes to the water” for our two newest profiles of university researchers and problem-solvers in Texas. Lee Fuiman, director of the UT Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, lays out some of the critical issues facing the Gulf of Mexico and what’s being done to overcome them. Meanwhile, at the River Systems Institute at Texas State University-San Marcos, director Andrew Sansom describes how to preserve and protect those waterways from stresses that are inevitable in the future.

We encourage you to check out the profiles of two more higher education innovators who are working diligently to improve our quality of life. Dr. Stanley M. Lemon of UT Medical Branch – Galveston explains why the prestigious new Galveston National Laboratory is a crucial factor in the fight against emerging infectious diseases. And Dr. Roger Rosenberg of UT Southwestern Medical Center – Dallas reveals why he is optimistic that neurologists are closing in on viable treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

In an article concerning the shortage of nurses in Texas, The Monitor in McAllen quotes the chairman of the Texas Nursing Workforce Shortage Coalition and the president and chief executive officer of the Texas Hospital Association, Dan Stultz:

“Demand for full-time registered nurses in Texas in 2008 exceeded supply by 22,000 and, without major increases in funding for nurse education, this gap will widen to 70,000 by 2020 as the state’s rapidly growing population ages and as older nurses retire or reduce the hours they work.”

The quality of our hospitals and healthcare depends on the quality — and quantity — of our healthcare workforce. Shortage of Nurses follows nursing students at two innovative programs designed to accelerate graduation and address the critical need for more healthcare professionals in our state.

Recently, according to the San Antonio Business Journal, University of Texas at San Antonio’s dean of the College of the Sciences George Perry has been named one of the world’s top 10 Alzheimer’s researchers.

In Aging with Dignity, researchers take us into some of higher education’s most innovative laboratories, where scientists and clinicians are tracking the intricacies of aging bodies and minds. Can we slow the crippling disabilities of age? Cure or better manage the cruel losses of Alzheimer’s and other dementias? Patients and family members with little time and lingering hopes talk about a future facing a huge generation of baby boomers and those who will care for them.

In this interview, Dr. Roger Rosenberg discusses his research at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and how they hope to slow the aging process long enough to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

With President Obama’s lift of the restrictions on federal funding for research with embryonic stem-cells, there have been many headlines concerning stem-cell research on a national level, but what is going on here in Texas?

In Rebuilding the Heart, James T. Willerson, M.D. and Emerson C. Perin, M.D. share the story of stem cell research occurring at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston that hopes to design a cure for failing hearts. By using 3D mapping and adult stem-cells, these Texas researchers are making a new path to cure heart disease.

“When one has a heart attack, a blood clot forms in a specific artery in the heart obstructing it, depriving a region of the heart of blood flow and that part of the heart dies. And with repeated heart attacks, the heart enlarges and becomes basketball shaped and rather than contracting vigorously, it may just quiver at the top. When that occurs, the patient has no energy, cannot walk any distance without becoming very short of breath, and about half of them are dead in 3 to 4 years,” Willerson explains. “Within 2 months, some who could not walk 20 feet without getting short of breath previously were now jogging on the beach.”

Travel around Texas with State of Tomorrow™ and meet higher education researchers working hard for your, well, tomorrow. They’re striving to improve our future with groundbreaking research in such areas as treatment of cancer and of emerging infectious diseases; training better math and science teachers; maximizing available energy resources while searching for viable alternatives; and expanding our understanding of genomes (DNA) so we can live longer.

Meet Ritsuko Komaki and James D. Cox, who were instrumental in bringing the Proton Therapy Center to UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Proton therapy — which has been described as more like a form of surgery than a form of radiation — is the most precise cancer treatment available, with the fewest side effects, making it a primary cancer-fighter of the future.

Explore the ultra-secure Galveston National Laboratory and the Robert E. Shope, M.D. Laboratory at UT Medical Branch – Galveston, where C. J. Peters leads a team of scientists studying the most exotic, dangerous and contagious viral diseases known to man. They’re looking for vaccines and cures for the likes of Rift Valley fever, SARS and the Marburg virus — both to protect people around the world from the diseases in their natural form and to defend against their possible use as bioterrorist weapons of mass destruction.

Hear why Dr. Scott W. Tinker, director of the UT Austin Bureau of Economic Geology, asserts that so-called “energy independence” is unattainable in a world where nations are growing more, not less, interdependent. But with the proper planning, preparation and compromising, “energy security,” a much more reasonable goal, is well within our reach.

Listen to an extended interview with Dr. Steven Austad, professor of cellular and structural biology at the UT Health Science Center – San Antonio, about what he’s doing to extend the lives of humans.

Learn why UTeach at UT Austin has become a national model for training more effective math, science and computer science teachers who, in turn, will attract more students to these crucial fields.

And see how students at the UT Health Science Center – Houston “practice medicine” on complex, computer-driven human patient simulators.

Together, these men and women help assure a better future for us all.