Doris Vela’s time is precious. Every day, Vela fights the clock to simultaneously play the roles of educator, child care center director and parent. When Vela wanted to add graduate student to her lengthy list of responsibilities, the last thing she needed was a time consuming commute from Pearland.
Vela is among the first class of students to benefit from convenience, flexibility and scholarship opportunities of the University of St. Thomas Online Master of Education Degree Program.
The Online MEd Program is designed to develop school leaders and masters-level teachers with concentrations in educational leadership, special education, curriculum and instruction, dual language and generalist. This program is funded by a United States Department of Education Title V grant. The purpose of the grant is to implement programs to achieve parity among Hispanic graduate students and other underrepresented groups in retention and graduation rates.
The Program offers two options for students seeking a master’s degree in education including a comprehensive online MEd or a hybrid’s master’s degree that combines online classes with traditional face-to-face classes. The grant also funds scholarships for need-based students.
“The UST Online MEd Program works well for me because I am very busy all the time,” Vela said. “I work about 12 hours a day as director of Little Genius Club child care center and I have two young daughters at home. Taking classes online helps me multitask and gives me the flexibility to do my coursework when I have time.”
Vela grew up in Mexico and came to the United States in 1997, and earned a degree in business administration from the University of Houston in 2001. Vela worked for six years at JPMorgan Chase. After the birth of her first child, her career interests shifted toward education. She came to UST to make the transition from the corporate world to the teaching profession. She worked as a bilingual Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher in both HISD and in Pearland. In 2007, she created the concept of Little Genius Club, Inc. early Childhood Center, and with the help of investors, the center was open for business in 2008. She returned to UST again in 2009 to begin a principal certification program, and she enrolled in UST’s Online MEd program in August of 2010.
In addition to the convenience of online classes, Vela said she chose to pursue her graduate degree at St. Thomas because the UST School of Education has an excellent reputation among educators. Vela said she is fortunate that the Program’s grant covers her entire tuition in the fall and spring semesters.
“I believe you get a quality education at St. Thomas,” she said. “It’s more personal; you get to build relationships with professors and classmates even though the classes are online. As an educator, I can relate to what I’m learning. Through the online class discussion boards, my classmates share their real-life experiences, and I am learning about the best practices in education.”
The Program provides students with academic and leadership foundations they need to advance in their professional career. Graduate students learn how to enhance communication skills with students, parents, colleagues and administrators; a variety of teaching and leadership methods that provide an ideal environment for learning; how to interpret and evaluate educational literature and research and how to solve problems effectively in a school or district while integrating the community’s expectations and values.
Vela views her participation in the graduate program as an opportunity to be a role model for other Hispanic students.
“I am a first-generation immigrant who came to this country with no resources, no support, no family but a very big dream; education has shaped my life,” Vela said. “I feel the responsibility to lead by example. That’s what I’m doing for my children, for the families I serve at Little Genius Club and for the teachers who work there. I want them to see that when you work hard and persevere, you can be successful.”
For more on the Online MEd program visit www.stthom.edu/onlinemed or contact Dr. Rita Coombs Richardson at 713-831-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Deborah Fernandez 713-525-3829 or email@example.com.