Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Content
Family Connection Newsletter Banner Photo May 2016

A Message from VPSA - Sam Gonzales

Pictured Above: Vice President for Student Affairs, Sam Gonzales

Cue “Pomp and Circumstance.” It’s commencement season on campus. We are preparing to congratulate thousands of students who will be receiving Bachelor, Master or Doctoral degrees. Serving as part of the stage party and viewing the celebrations from that vantage point is one of my favorite activities.

When I think of commencement, I think of courage. Completing a degree and the process of getting to graduation is a combination of courage, success in the classroom mixed with part endurance and part belief in yourself. I admire the tenacity of our Roadrunners and I admire the same in you. Whether your students are in their first or fourth year, your efforts to support them through the experience and create pathways where courage can flourish is a key to success.

I speak from firsthand experience. My daughter will receive her doctoral degree from UTSA this spring. She is one of the many graduates I will celebrate at commencement. This is not just a story from my personal family album; it describes the essence of our lives as family members supporting college students. We must continue to recognize the courage in every student — to support their goals and encourage them to get to the finish line.

Then, we get to be spectators at the best ceremony of all. I am grateful to get the chance to share that wonderful moment with you this year or in the years ahead.

Best Wishes,

Back to Top

Upcoming Roadrunner Road Trips: Rio Grande Valley, Houston

Roadrunner Roadtrip

As we move forward to summer, the Roadrunner Road Trips continue next week. Our team will be visiting the Rio Grande Valley and Houston area. These events provide an opportunity for students, families, and fans to meet our new UTSA Football coach, Frank Wilson, and new Men’s Basketball coach, Steve Henson, as well as talk with UTSA staff.

Our team is ready to hit the road and celebrate with you. Registration is required and you can find more about all of our stops here.

Together, we are a powerful team for the Roadrunners.

Commencement Spotlight: Mary Ledbetter- Gallagher wants to inspire non-traditional students to succeed in college

Mary Ledbetter

Meet Mary Ledbetter-Gallagher. This history major wants to show non-traditional students that an education is worth meeting challenges head on.

For more than 25 years, Ledbetter-Gallagher, 57, had dedicated her life to being a mother to her three sons, a grandmother to her grandchildren and a wife to her husband. But in 2006, her life suddenly changed when a divorce left her with few job skills or substantial work history.

“After my divorce, I ended up working as a bus driver to pay the bills,” Ledbetter-Gallagher said. “I had a small settlement from my divorce and the money from my job, but I lived below the poverty line.”

Ledbetter-Gallagher knew that she needed to find a way to better her situation. She would need to do what her six siblings or parents had not – graduate from college. She enrolled at the local community college, attending classes in the evenings or between shifts.

Community college wasn’t easy for Ledbetter-Gallagher. She did not receive financial aid for several semesters and had to drop out for a bit as a result. “It was a tough situation to be in.”

Ledbetter-Gallagher eventually completed her associate’s degree requirements in 2014. It was at the moment of her graduation that she says a fire lit inside her, a passion for education. She set her sights on her next goal, obtaining the bachelor’s degree that had proved elusive to her siblings. She enrolled at UTSA and got to work.

As a UTSA student, Ledbetter-Gallagher’s spirits were much improved. She received financial aid and obtained a few scholarships. She even found a renewed interest in American history, a subject that she has always loved.

“As a child, I adored history,” Ledbetter-Gallagher said. “I would often sit with my family and watch historical documentaries or movies. And as a woman, I’ve learned about the importance of women being able to compete academically because of our history in our country.”

And, perhaps due to being a non-traditional student, Ledbetter-Gallagher said that she felt a profound need to work hard at her studies to prove herself and her peers.

“I strive to be the strongest student that I can be,” Ledbetter-Gallagher said. “For me, earning my degree is worth all the hours spent in the library researching, writing and rewriting research papers and running on very little sleep.”

Over the last two years, Ledbetter-Gallagher embraced and thrived in her life as a UTSA student. She is a member of the Honors College, and several student organizations, including the Honors Society, Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Sigma, the History Honors Society and the Golden Key International Honor Society. She has even been named to the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She credits her professors with providing the support that allowed her to succeed.

“I have had some of the most inspiring people come into my life through my classes,” Ledbetter-Gallagher said. “They have encouraged me to no end. On the days when I felt overwhelmed, the faculty, my Honors College advisor and the support staff on campus have backed me up and supported me. I’m so happy I chose to attend UTSA.”

Though her road to graduation has not been easy, when Ledbetter-Gallagher crosses the stage in May, she will do so with the pride that comes with knowing she was able to overcome the obstacles that life put in her way.

“I love UTSA,” Ledbetter-Gallagher said. “I have had the most amazing experiences. I’m a non-traditional student, and I’ve had my challenges. But I hope that my success can help other non-traditional students, especially older women, see that it’s possible. I know how hard it can be, but it’s worth it.”

To read more, please visit UTSA Today.

Back to Top

UTSA's David Morgan II Becomes First NFL Draft Pick in Program's History

David in action David and rowdy sign

The Minnesota Vikings helped David Morgan II make UTSA history yet again on Saturday when they selected the tight end with the 13th pick in the sixth round (No. 188 overall) during the National Football League Draft. The Vikings traded up to make Morgan II the Roadrunners' first-ever NFL Draft pick.

Morgan II became UTSA's first-ever All-American this past season when he was named to USA Today's second unit. Also a second-team All-Conference USA selection last fall, he recorded 45 receptions for 566 yards (12.6 avg.) and a program single-season record five touchdowns while grading out as one of the top blocking tight ends in the country. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder also was named to the midseason John Mackey Award (nation's top tight end) watch list.

The Marble Falls native set a then-school mark with nine catches in the season opener at then-No. 22 Arizona (Sept. 3) and matched that total five games later against Louisiana Tech (Oct. 10). His 109 yards against the Wildcats was UTSA's first 100-yard receiving performance in three seasons and his two touchdown grabs against the Bulldogs matched the program's single-game record. Morgan II earned honorable mention John Mackey Tight End of the Week accolades following both of those outings.

Last year, the Roadrunners saw Ashaad Mabry and Triston Wade sign free agent contracts with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, respectively, following the draft. Mabry initially earned a spot on the Saints' final 53-man roster following training camp, but was waived and resigned to the practice squad, where he spent the 2015 season.

Meanwhile, former track & field All-American Teddy Williams became UTSA's first athlete to be signed by an NFL team back in July 2010 when he inked a free agent pact with the Dallas Cowboys during training camp. Williams, who just completed his sixth year in the league, played in Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers this past season and he also has had stints with the Indianapolis Colts (2012), Arizona Cardinals (2013), Chicago Bears (2014) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2014) during his professional career.

To read more, please visit UTSA Today.

Back to Top

First-Generation Honors Student Becomes UTSA’s First Goldwater Scholar

America Ruiz

A biology major and a recipient of the Greehey Family Foundation Scholarship for First-Generation students, America Ruiz has been awarded the distinguished Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Ruiz, a first-generation college student and immigrant from Mexico, has made UTSA history by becoming the first Roadrunner to ever receive this award.

“What immediately impressed me about America was her determination to succeed, the way she has made the lab her home, and her positive attitude of making good things happen for her,” said Dr. Thomas Forsthuber, UTSA professor in the department of biology. “She goes about her business with a quiet determination that will serve her well in her future career.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, named in honor of Senator Barry Goldwater, awards scholarships in the amount of $7,500. These competitive scholarships are offered each year to 200 junior and senior undergraduates pursuing mathematics and science degrees across the U.S.

Ruiz, who serves as an undergraduate research trainee in the RISE program, conducts research in Dr. Forsthuber’s Immunology lab. Her current research focuses on inducing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice, but with the use of an improved and more humane approach.

EAE, which is a popularly used model for multiple sclerosis research in mice, is traditionally induced with a constituent that is known for its adverse effects on the animals. Ruiz’s research instead utilizes a novel glucan particle-based adjuvant that is more ethical in its approach and minimizes undesirable side-effects for the rodents.

“If successful, these studies are expected to revise the current practice of how disease is induced in autoimmune disease animal models, and we anticipate that this method will rapidly become the accepted standard for the field worldwide,” Ruiz explained.

“This research will change the current protocols approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) in this country because of the need for the safest and most ethical way for the treatment of animals.”

She plans to obtain a doctoral degree to become a professor and immunology researcher in hopes of mentoring other eager young learners. Ruiz is particularly compelled to pursue a career in this field, given the disparities minorities face in science.

“As a Mexican-American woman, I recognize the need for more women of color to become members of the science faculty, where they are grossly underrepresented, to set examples and encourage students to further their education,” Ruiz shared.

Ruiz credits the UTSA Honors College, especially its Interim Dean Dr. Ann Eisenberg, with providing her the necessary support to aid in her accomplishments.

“The UTSA Honors College has been crucial to my success,” Ruiz shared. “Dr. Eisenberg believes in my potential as a student and, because of her, I have had many opportunities that I would otherwise have not encountered. I am proud to say that I belong to the UTSA Honors College.”

To read more, please visit the Honors College website.

Back to Top

Late Night Breakfast Tradition for Final Exam Season

Students in Line Students and rowdy sign

The Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Housing and Residence Life, and UTSA Dining held their annual Late Night Breakfast as finals approached.

Late Night Breakfast has provided an opportunity for faculty and administrators to show appreciation and support to students, and offer encouragement before final exams. The event is filled with music and fun activities for students to help alleviate the stress of preparing for final exams. Staff and faculty serve the attendees a buffet of breakfast items such as waffles, pancakes, hash browns, eggs and bacon.

Back to Top

Back to Top

UTSA Event Spotlight: Spring 2016 Commencement


The UTSA commencement ceremony is the biggest celebratory event of our students’ success at our university. It is not just a symbol of their academic achievement in completing their degree, but it is a symbol for the next chapter in their lives.

The university puts forth great effort to make this a day that will be memorable for both the students and their families. It is our intention to make the students’ last experience with UTSA a great one.

The university’s band (The Spirit of San Antonio) joins the ceremony, playing the traditional Pomp and Circumstance and the Alma Mater. A mariachi group joins us in celebration at the processional. Moving to a larger venue has given us the opportunity to make the ceremony even better for our students. Students are now able to invite as many guests as they want to celebrate this exciting accomplishment. UTSA has always prided itself on taking the time to call out each student’s name and recognize them as they walk the stage for their big moment. At the end of the ceremony, streams of blue and orange streamers fire off to show the students how proud we are of them.

We want to recognize the families and their contributions towards their students' success, because, without them, much of this wouldn’t be possible. We look forward to seeing your students when they cross the stage at the end of their college journey. For further information on attending Spring 2016 commencement, please visit Spring 2016 commencement website.

Back to Top