Sisters of Divine Providence continue mission of educating underserved communities
By Maria Elena Cruz
Mariachis blared in celebration of the newest Our Lady of the Lake University campus, located in the city of La Feria south of San Antonio in the Rio Grande Valley.
The grand opening of the new school was the culmination of many hours of hard work by community leaders and residents of the area who felt the need for more educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley.
The new campus will offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in social and leadership studies, among others. In a city where more than 20 percent of the population lives in poverty, the need to create better and lasting educational opportunities for residents was evident to state and local officials.
Patricia Longoria, Director for the Rio Grande campus, talked about the incredible opportunities OLLU will be affording this underserved region in South Texas while welcoming members of the community and community leaders.
“It is an exciting time for higher education in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Longoria. “Increasing access to higher education in the Valley is critical to the success of our region and our future.”
Economic Development Administration representative Robert Busche pointed to a shift in the kind of work the government is doing aiming at helping communities like La Feria who want to help improve themselves beyond their infrastructure.
“Increasingly what we are doing today is investing in communities that are investing in themselves,” said Busche. “This is a partnership of the city of La Feria, Our Lady of the Lake University and frankly the wants and desires of the community, in general, to help this community move forward to create economic opportunities through education. In the Valley there is a lot of need as far as education, and the addition of OLLU will be a tremendous addition to this community as a whole,” said Busche.
OLLU is no stranger to bringing new educational opportunities to underserved communities. Coming from France more than 150 years ago, the Sisters of the Divine Providence founded Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio as a school for young women.
OLLU President Diane E. Melby, Ed.D., made comparisons to these humble beginnings when addressing those in attendance.
“When OLLU came to the Rio Grande Valley in 2008, it was the result of a similar quest,” said Melby, “Just like our campus in San Antonio grew through the years, our efforts here in the Valley have grown.
We started with one doctoral program and now we offer bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, social work, and psychology,” she said. “We now offer master’s degrees in business administration, organizational leadership, social work, and a PhD program that is flourishing,” added Melby.
If education is in fact the great equalizer, the future looks bright for La Feria. According to the College Board, workers with a bachelor’s degree earn 75 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, and those with master’s or doctoral degrees earn even more. This can prove not only beneficial for individuals and families, but for the entire region as well.
In addition to expanding its program, OLLU RGV will especially provide educational opportunities for working professionals looking to advance in their careers. There will be evening and weekend classes available as well as regular classes to accommodate non-traditional students.
The new building is fully equipped and ready to admit new students. “This is a state-of-the-art educational facility that will serve the Valley for many, many years. It will be the spark that will create a positive change in the lives of our students, our families and our community,” said Melby.
Father Alfonso Guevara of the Dioceses of Brownsville believes it is not a coincidence the Sisters of Divine Providence have brought this gift to the city. “This is no accident,” said Father Guevara, “this is truly providence at work in our lives.”
For more information about Our Lady of the Lake University Rio Grande Valley degrees and programs visit http://www.ollusa.edu/RGV