Nicole Bernal, a graduate student at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin (SHS), is the newest SHS student to receive a prestigious Ima Hogg scholarship from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

Bernal, who is entering her second year in the MSSW program at SHS, has a robust resume in the area of mental health research and most recently served in a practicum position at Round Rock ISD. She hopes to further contribute to the field of mental health by expanding mental health care access and early intervention programs.

“As a social worker, there are few things more important to the well-being of young people than access to good mental health,” she said. “I aim to dismantle mental health care barriers for youth by providing my professional services and support to underserved public schools, and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I am given to do that through my education at SHS.”

Bernal is one of 19 master’s level social work students across the state of Texas to earn an Ima Hogg award this year, which is a $5,000 scholarship dedicated to graduate social work students in Texas who have committed to joining the state’s mental health workforce. Students are nominated to the Hogg Foundation by faculty members and are chosen for their commitment to strengthening the well-being of their communities.

“Nicole is a phenomenal student who exemplifies passion for mental health and well-being, as demonstrated through her practicum work with teen parents at Round Rock ISD’s Success High School,” said Sarah Swords, Assistant Dean for Master’s Programs. “Her strong contributions as a student, as well as a researcher with both the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing and the Department of Psychiatry at Dell Medical School, make us feel proud and certain of the impact she will have in the future as a social worker.”

“Behavioral health is in the forefront of social work, and students like Nicole show exactly why the Steve Hicks School is uniquely positioned as a leader in social work and health,” said Allan Cole, Dean of SHS. “Our partnerships in the state capital of Texas create second-to-none opportunities for our students, and I’m proud to have students like Nicole who can use those opportunities immediately to make an impact on our society.”