$200K gift will provide scholarships to social work, psychology students

Paul Lanning presents a check to President Christopher Callahan

HealthForce Partners Executive Director Paul Lanning presents a check for the scholarships to President Christopher Callahan. 

University of the Pacific students studying social work and psychology will receive help paying for their education with a recent $200,000 donation from the nonprofit HealthForce Partners Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The scholarships are intended to address the shortage of behavioral health care workers in San Joaquin County by educating students who will live and work in the region.

“There's a tremendous shortage of mental health providers. It affects young children, seniors and everyone in between,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Nicoleta Bugnariu. “This gives us the ability to attract students from our community who can get their master of social work degree, have practice clinical hours in San Joaquin County and then return to deliver the mental health care that is much needed.”

Ten scholarships will be awarded annually for the next two years—$10,000 each for five students in the School of Health Sciences’ Master of Social Work program and five students in Benerd College’s Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program.

Scholarships will be awarded to students beginning in the fall semester.

“It's a fantastic opportunity because price can sometimes be the barrier for students,” said Patricia Campbell, dean of Benerd College. “These students will get the opportunity to walk into the field without a bunch of debt weighing on them, and hopefully, it keeps people in the community.”

HealthForce Partners was launched in 2018 to reduce the shortage of health care workers in the region. University of the Pacific was a founding member. The goal is to develop a workforce pipeline to serve the community.

“Those who grow up in this area are more likely to remain in this area if they have opportunities for education, financial support and employment,” said HealthForce Partners Executive Director Paul Lanning ’07, a Benerd College alumnus. “Our role is to mitigate the challenges that health care employers see across the region, and that is a shortage of trained professionals in every level and discipline.”

HealthForce Partners is also offering paid internships of $20 per hour to students in the social work program.

The support from HealthForce Partners complements ongoing initiatives to expand the behavioral health workforce in the community, including two major grants awarded to Pacific earlier this year.

The School of Health Sciences received $6 million from the state of California to expand its social work program, which includes $10,000 scholarships to the first 45 students admitted into the fall 2023 cohort.

The Master of Social Work program is a 16-month accelerated program for students without a social work background. A 12-month advanced standing program is available to those with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

A behavioral health specialization track, made possible with grant funding, will be offered to students beginning next year. Applications for the fall 2024 cohort are open through July 1, 2024.

Benerd College received $5.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education to expand mental health services in K-12 schools in San Joaquin Valley. The funding will cover tuition for eight graduate students per year in counseling and school psychology.

The Master of Arts in Education degree with a concentration in Counseling Psychology is a two-year program that trains students to become licensed professional clinical counselors. The priority deadline to enroll for summer 2024 is March 15 with the final deadline on June 1.