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Hispanic scholarship, support program benefits Southwestern Ph.D. student

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The Hispanic community makes up a large segment of the population of the state of Texas. In contrast, Hispanics comprise a much smaller percentage of the population of the Southern Baptist Convention’s seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and of American seminaries as a whole, figures show.
Daisy Machado, program director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative, said Association of Theological Schools’ figures show fewer than 100 Hispanic faculty teach in American seminaries. Machado, who discussed the scholarship program at a reception at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 6, said the number of Hispanic theology students at the doctoral level lags far behind Asian Americans and African Americans.
To bolster the number of theology faculty and students, HTI was formed in 1996, Machado said, with the help of a $3.3-million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Now the HTI, whose offices are located on the grounds of Emory University in Atlanta, is looking to support Hispanics committed not only to pursuing graduate theological education but also to “Latino faith communities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico,” she said.
Southwestern doctor of philosophy candidate Esther Diaz-Bolet already has benefited from HTI’s support. She received a $14,000 HTI scholarship as one of six winners in the dissertation-year category. Diaz-Bolet was the only winner in the advanced degree categories from a Southern Baptist seminary.
A Cuban by birth, Diaz-Bolet and her family moved to the United States in 1960. She earned her master of arts in religious education at Southwestern in 1989 and a master of science in adult education at Florida International University. She is currently an adjunct professor of administration in the school of educational ministries at Southwestern and is an instructor at Tarrant County Junior College. She hopes to teach in a Christian institution when she finishes her doctorate.
Her dissertation, “A Study of Selected Factors Related to Mentoring Among Women Administrators in Christian Colleges and Universities,” addresses mentoring among women and will attempt to determine the relationship between mentoring and career advancement, career satisfaction and personal development.
The HTI selection committee was impressed with Diaz-Bolet’s scholarship application and the work she is doing and offered “much support of who she will be within the academy,” Machado said. The selection committee was comprised of faculty from schools such as Drew University, Vanderbilt University, Union Theological Seminary, McCormick Theological Seminary, Loyola Marymount University and Austin Presbyterian Seminary.
Bob Welch, associate dean of Southwestern’s school of educational ministries’ advanced studies program and one of Diaz-Bolet’s doctoral supervisors, said the scholarship was a fitting tribute to her excellence and character. Welch noted Diaz-Bolet is a popular adjunct teacher with exceptional teaching and relationship skills. “Her classroom is a place where a friendly exchange of ideas and ministry concepts are discussed.
“The quality of the person goes beyond her academic endeavors. She has a unique sense of call and ministry potential. Southwestern is fortunate to have her represent the seminary through the awarding of this honor.”
Diaz-Bolet said the HTI scholarship has been a tremendous blessing, allowing her to concentrate on finishing her dissertation rather than having to work extra hours to make ends meet. However, she said the HTI was a “full support program” offering much more than scholarship money.
The HTI is working to build a community of Hispanic scholars based on the recognition, according to the HTI, that graduate education is most successful when a support system is in place for the students. To accomplish that the HTI is offering educational and networking opportunities through regional meetings, an annual three-day summer workshop and other workshops for scholarship winners. Diaz-Bolet said the HTI also provides mentors for students and opportunities to meet with publishers for input on writing their dissertations.
“There is a definite accountability factor which is very good,” Bolet said. “They also provide networking money to allow us to choose one or two events during the year that we can attend.” She attended the biannual meeting of the Association for Hispanic and Theological Education and was surprised to be invited to serve on their board for the next three years.
The day after the HTI reception, a Hispanic student told Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions, that he had been struggling with the idea of doing doctoral work. “But now I know that I want to do that,” the student told Sanchez.
Hispanic seminary students are invited to apply for scholarships in four categories — masters, doctoral, dissertation year and post-doctoral. Twenty-five $4,000 grants will be awarded to master’s students, 10 $7,000 grants to doctoral students, seven $14,000 grants to dissertation-year students and two $15,000 grants to post-doctoral students.
Diaz-Bolet, who was one of only 14 who applied, encouraged Hispanic students to apply for the HTI scholarships and get plugged into their network. She called the HTI “a group worth keeping in touch with.” If nothing else, she suggested students see the HTI as “another vehicle, another avenue that the Lord is providing that can firm up some things about the call or direction that the Lord wants in your life.”
Nearly 30 Hispanic students attended the reception, and they voted to resurrect Southwestern’s Hispanic Ministry Organization (HMO). Sanchez, who sponsors the student group, said it’s very important for students to be involved in the HMO.
“I think we need to network within our own schools. The fellowship is an important element. And later when students are applying for scholarships or jobs, people outside the seminary want to see that students were not only involved academically but also with local churches and other leadership positions,” he said.
Application deadline for HTI scholarships for doctoral students is Dec. 7 and for masters students is Jan. 11. Interested students should call the HTI office at 1-888-441-4785 for more information.

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  • David Porter