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Online MEd Provides $104,000 in Scholarship

This year, the University of St. Thomas will award about $104,000 in scholarships to Hispanic and low-income students who are pursuing an online Master of Education degree in educational leadership or special education. Individual scholarships are available up to $5,000 a year based on financial need.


The Online MEd Program was developed through a $2.8 million Title V Grant to implement programs to achieve parity among Hispanic graduate students and other underrepresented groups in retention and graduation rates.

Yvonne Oliveira is a special education teacher who has been studying in the UST MEd program since summer 2010. She takes classes in a hybrid way, taking one face-to-face class and one online class each semester. She said she prefers the face-to-face classes, but the online classes are convenient for her schedule.


“I enjoyed it because you can complete coursework at your own pace,” Oliveira said. “I didn’t feel like I was rushed. I could do a little bit at a time and log in whenever I wanted.”


Dr. Rita Coombs Richardson, assistant professor of education and director of curriculum for Title V Master’s Program, developed the online program, which will also include an online bilingual education track in fall 2012.


Some online programs send students a CD with recorded lectures, but Coombs Richardson said St. Thomas personalizes the online learning experience with as much interpersonal interaction as possible.

“Before I get started, I ask the students to send me a picture for an online album and tell me something about themselves,” she said. “It’s very important for the instructor to be part of the class with the students. I email them, and I Skype video chat with them so we see each other.”


Coombs Richardson said the online classes are as engaging as classroom courses. “The students have to be active learners,” she said. “They can’t just sit back and listen to a lecture anymore.”


In addition to reading books and online slideshow lectures, students research, study ethics, incorporate media such as videos and participate in online discussion topics regularly.


“In an online class, you have more opportunities to comment on various topics and have a chance to read your classmates’ opinions,” she said. “I enjoy listening to everyone's opinions, and actual classroom experiences on topics of discussion in the classroom.”


Oliveira said she chose UST because she liked the program offerings and the classes that were available. She was impressed by the teachers she met at an M.Ed. Open House and also appreciated the resources available through the Graduate Student Success Center, which assists with graduate-level writing, research and issues of academic and work/life balance.


“There’s always new things coming out with special education, and the classes have helped my teaching overall,” Oliveira said. “It’s been a really good experience.”


For more information about the Online MEd Program, contact Dr. Rita Coombs Richardson at 713-831-7235 or Deborah Fernandez at 713-525-3829 or