UNT Dallas students learn about the "Three W's" at socioeconomic conference

Thursday, May 30, 2024

In education, the “Three Rs” traditionally have meant Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. As the world evolved, some teachers began referring to them as Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.

Three W's GraphicBut what about the “Three Ws?” They were the focus of a first-of-its-kind conference held by the UNT Dallas Center for Socioeconomic Mobility Through Education (CSME) on March 29, 2024. Seventy-seven people attended the conference, including students, faculty, staff and guest speakers, which featured 12 sessions and two plenaries.

The “Three Ws” stand for Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wealth. By advancing those three areas for students, alumni and the community, UNT Dallas aims to accelerate socioeconomic mobility in southern Dallas County and beyond.

Subject matter experts in the “Three Ws” shared their knowledge and experience with undergraduate and graduate students eager to learn, grow and succeed.


Well-being can vary dramatically between nearby communities. This includes physical well-being and factors such as diet, sleep and exercise. It also includes mental well-being and factors such as mindset, attitude and eustress (the good kind of stress).

Karla Garcia, College Access and Success Manager at The Commit Partnership, a Dallas nonprofit“Collectively we can impact communities,” said keynote speaker Karla Garcia, College Access and Success Manager at The Commit Partnership, a Dallas nonprofit.

Access to healthcare, affordable housing, and nutritious food can make a big difference in someone’s health, as can their income and neighborhood.

For example, the average life expectancy in the 75204 zip code of Dallas is 90, while it is 67 in 75215. These geographic areas are only two miles apart, yet they are more than two decades apart in terms of how long the average person lives.

This sobering statistic is a stark reminder that much work needs to be done to close the well-being gap; work that has already begun but will take a lot longer to have a sustainable and widespread impact.

“Your destiny should not be defined by your zip code,” Garcia said. She believes socioeconomic mobility equals social justice, including “your body, mind, spirit, and… dignity.”

UNT Dallas's Dr. Milan SevakWisdom

When it comes to wisdom, “Academic skills are not enough,” said Dr. Milan Sevak, Executive Director of CSME, which hosted the conference on campus.

Sevak explained that job competition has changed. He said intelligence should be coupled with character, including attributes such as perseverance, self-control, and consciousness. The total package enables one to become a true and lasting leader.

Choosing to go to college or being accepted into a college are still significant factors for many North Texas high school students. Many decide against it or cannot achieve the grades required for admission.


There is usually a direct connection between an individual’s education and income. According to government data, the current sustainable income, known as a “living wage,” in the DFW region is between $45,885 and $57,550.

The data shows that, over time, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. In other words, the rich get further ahead while the poor fall further behind. Can the widening wealth gap be narrowed? Can the poor begin to catch up, even a little bit?

“It sucks to be broke,” said Garcia. To get ahead, you have to stretch every dollar, she advised, based on her own experience.


Dallas County Workforce Challenge Graphic

CSME presenters cited the K-12 Workforce Challenge, which tracked more than 32,000 students in the 2012 Dallas ISD 8th grade class for 10 years. 19% did not complete high school. 81% finished high school, but only 47% enrolled in college in Texas. At the end of the study, only 17% of the students tracked had earned a post-secondary degree. That’s 5,410 students out of the 32,643.

The remaining 83% represents $13 billion in lost earnings over a lifetime, based on research that equates college degrees to annual income.

The CSME approach is to transform learning by partnering with K-12, higher education institutions, and community organizations using three pillars:

  • Actionable Research that bridges the gap between research and action with relevant and accessible 
  • Scalable Educational Innovation that identifies, tests and scales impactful initiatives to accelerate socioeconomic mobility
  • Collective Capacity Building that enhances the knowledge, abilities and resources of the regional community

One of Garcia’s remarks struck a chord with attendees. “Build longer tables, not higher walls,” she said. Perfect prose to summarize the conference's purpose.


From UNT Dallas –  Students