Community Connect

Office of the Vice President for Community Services



Crowdfunding Gives Small Donations Big Impact

UTSA students take on a garden project at the Madonna Neighborhood Center in San Antonio's Edgewood ISD.

Established just a year ago, the crowdfunding website Launch UTSA has already supported several projects with crucial seed funding. From fighting child obesity and building bunkhouses at a facility for the deaf to securing money to buy new uniforms for the UTSA Cheer team, the initiative has successfully supported efforts led by UTSA groups and individuals by helping raise nearly $70,000 in total donations.

Introduced in spring 2014, Launch UTSA has proved to be a successful fundraising tool for research, service-learning, study abroad and other projects.

Crowdfunding—the process of collecting small donations from a wide audience, particularly via social networks—can allow friends, parents and other supporters to donate to specific projects.

“When students and faculty are passionate about a project, the first people who will support their effort are their own social networks,” says Megan Miller, the annual giving coordinator with UTSA’s development office. “So we encourage students to reach out via email, phone or social media to let their networks know and ask them to share further.”

Launch UTSA campaigns will support projects at all levels—from a few hundred dollars to $10,000, Miller says, although each project has exceeded goals so far. In addition to raising funds, Launch UTSA educates the community by sharing the story behind each project through video and detailed information on goals and objectives. Each project has a page outlining specific funding needs and information on how to donate. Supporters will receive email updates about the campaign’s progress and the outcome of the project.

“I think one of the key components of this is that eventually it will build—and continue to develop–our culture of philanthropy among the UTSA community, including among the students,” Miller says. “These are exciting projects. Launch UTSA helps them visualize the impact that their dollars make.”


President's Office

Ricardo Romo Honored for Support to Military

In recognition of the broad range of services and support that UTSA provides to members of the military and their families, President Ricardo Romo received the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from the United States Army North in 2014. Established in 1959, the award is the third highest honor that a private civilian can receive from the Army.

Only months later, in January 2015, Romo received the San Antonian Award from the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, which honors individuals whose business achievements and charitable and civic contributions transcend his or her industry, career and immediate community.


Social Work

Students Compile Stories of Homelessness

My Journey Through Homelessness: The Real Story

Master's students in the UTSA Department of Social Work have produced an anthology of personal stories written by men and women in San Antonio who've experienced homelessness.

Supported by senior lecturer Robert Ambrosino, the students—who compiled the stories under the collective name Stigmatized Hearts—were solely responsible for all aspects of the project from conception to execution.

They conducted interviews; secured resources, including in-kind and other donations; managed project logistics; promoted the project to the media and organized a book-signing event for the anthology's’ release.

Published by AuthorHouse, My Journey Through Homelessness: The Real Story is available through major retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


College of Architecture, Construction and Planning

Grad Students Harvest Fruit for Underserved

Melissa Federspill (left) and Mary Minor snap a selfie while harvesting tangerines as part of the project they founded.

Mary Minor and Melissa Federspill, two graduate students in UTSA’s College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, have founded the San Antonio Fruit Tree Project, a volunteer organization that maps fruit trees around San Antonio and harvests what homeowners agree to donate. Since its inception in summer 2014, volunteers have plucked about 600 pounds of fruit and donated it to organizations like the San Antonio Food Bank.

“Many trees produce more fruit than their owners could possibly consume, and then it goes to waste. At the same time there are people in San Antonio with insufficient access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Federspill says.

Minor adds, “We would like to see the San Antonio Fruit Tree Project become a neighborhood initiative in which residents coordinate harvests and share produce within the immediate community.”





UTSA Named to President’s Community Service Honor Roll

UTSA has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which highlights colleges and universities that show a clear commitment to community service and service learning while achieving meaningful and measurable outcomes in the communities they serve. It is the fifth consecutive year that UTSA has been on the honor roll for general community services. Additionally, the university was recognized for the first time under the honor roll education category.

“The president’s honor roll is a wonderful reaffirmation of the outstanding work that our students, faculty and staff do in the community,” says Jude Valdez, UTSA vice president for community services. “Community engagement is at the very core of UTSAs’ mission, and it is nice to see our commitment recognized.”

The general community service honor roll acknowledges UTSA’s positive impact on individual community members, particularly from low-income areas. UTSA submitted the following projects for consideration: Alternative Spring Break: Atlanta (from the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion), Students Together Achieving Revitalization (from the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning) and UTSA United to Serve (from the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion).

The education honor roll recognizes the following projects, which engaged UTSA students in service that addressed attendance, behavior issues, high school graduation rates, and college readiness and success: Inspire U Mentoring Program (Office of P-20 Initiatives), TRIO Upward Bound Animal Shelter Service Project (TRIO Programs) and UTSA VOICES College Day (Volunteer Organization Involving Community Education and Service & Student Center for Community Engagement and Service).

The application for the President’s Honor Roll was a joint effort of the UTSA Office of P-20 Initiatives, the Center for Civic Engagement, and Volunteer Services in the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion.

UTSA Among Top Schools in Nationwide Recycling Event

UTSA had another record-setting year with 2014’s RecycleMania intercollegiate competition, placing 19th out of 256 participating U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities. The goal for each of the schools was to collect the most pounds of recyclables per capita. UTSA recorded 290,595 pounds of material recycled over the course of the 10-week contest. In total, UTSA recycled 55.6 percent of all waste generated across its campuses.

This success is largely due to the mini trash bin program the university has implemented. Designed to make individuals aware of and responsible for the waste they generate, a small trash receptacle is attached to each employee's larger personal recycling bin.

College of Education and Human Development

Education Grant to Support Hispanic Students

The UTSA Academy for Teacher Excellence has received a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will support research on Hispanic student retention and allow ATE to collaborate with community colleges and high schools in the surrounding area to ensure that students are college-ready upon graduation.

The goals of the grant, awarded in September 2014, include increasing the number of Latino students who major in critical teaching-shortage areas as well as helping at least 75 percent of students graduating from the program find employment or enroll in graduate school.


Youth Outreach

College and Career Fair for Cancer Survivors

UTSA’s University Career Center has joined the American Cancer Society and UT Health Science Center in organizing the first Childhood Cancer College and Career Fair for young cancer patients and survivors.

The free event, hosted at Café College in November 2014, was set up to address the issues young patients face when their lives are interrupted by long-term cancer treatments and to help them envision options they can take on as next steps in their lives.

Attendees took part in a panel with patients sharing stories about overcoming health challenges. Presentations covered career assessments, disability services, financial aid, admissions and scholarship.


UTSA in Top 10 for Peace Corps Volunteers

In the Peace Corps's 2014 rankings of the nation's top volunteer-producing Hispanic-Serving Institutions, UTSA ranked among the top 10 with nine alumni serving in seven countries. Since the Peace Corps was established in 1961, 77 alumni from UTSA have traveled abroad as volunteers.

Institute for Economic Developemnt

UTSA's McKinley, Salgado Tapped to Advise Texas State Leadership

Robert McKinley and Albert Salgado

Robert McKinley                  Albert Salgado

Robert McKinley, UTSA’s associate vice president for economic development, has been appointed to service as a member of the State of Texas's Office of Small Business Assistance Advisory Task Force. McKinley was selected—along with Albert Salgado, who is director of the Institute for Economic Development’s South-West Texas Border Small Business Development Center—in 2014 by then-governor Rick Perry. The task force advises the governor, lieutenant governor and Texas House speaker.

A year prior, the U.S. State Department appointed McKinley to the Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council, established jointly by President Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

McKinley has led the institute since 2003. In its 35 years, the institute has helped more than 5,000 businesses open their doors and create more than 58,000 jobs, with a total direct economic impact of more than $18 billion. The Small Business Administration ranked the institute’s SBDC International Trade Center first in the nation in 2014, while six other programs are consistently ranked among the top performers nationally.