It all adds up
A strong Alumni Association equals more scholarships
Ariel Garza enjoys solving algebra,
geometry and calculus problems and often
earned A's and B's on her high school
math tests. That's why she wants to become
a math teacher.
"A lot of kids need help with math," Garza said. "It would
be great to help them in the areas that they are struggling."
However, Garza, who was raised in a single-parent
household, knew that going to college would be a financial
challenge. Her mother's annual salary could not cover the
cost of books and tuition. Still, Garza's heart was set on attending
UTSA to major in education.
"I wanted to stay in San Antonio, and my sister graduated
from UTSA and is now a teacher," she said.
Today, Garza's dream of becoming a math teacher is almost
a reality. Garza expects to graduate in May 2012 after being
awarded a four-year UTSA Alumni Association Scholarship.
"It has helped me and my mother from stressing about how
to come up with money to pay for my education," she said.
"I'm grateful to have the opportunity to focus on my studies
and not have to worry about getting a part-time job right now."
Garza is one of 36 UTSA Alumni Scholars who received
a total of more than $72,000 in scholarships this year. Since
1982, the Alumni Association Scholarship Program has distributed
more than $865,000 in scholarship funds to almost
300 students. The first scholarship ever awarded was a $200
scholarship for textbooks.
Scholarships would not be possible without monies generated
from Alumni Association membership dues, said Jim
Mickey '78, associate vice president for alumni programs and
marketing. The association's challenge, he said, is to get more
alumni to join.
"There are more than 80,000 alumni and only 5 percent
are members," Mickey said. "We want to earn our alums' membership
by adding value and benefits."
Each year, the Alumni Association hosts two key fundraising
events for scholarships: the Diploma Dash 5K City
Championship Race and Fitness Walk, and the Alumni Gala.
"When it comes down to it, the purpose of these events is
to raise money for scholarships and also have fun, so the more
alumni that participate in the Diploma Dash or the gala, then
the more funds we can raise for scholarships," Mickey said.
To date, the Alumni Association's endowment has grown
to more than $1 million, Mickey added. If the association can
award more than $100,000 next year, it will be the highest
amount given in one year in the association's history.
But to keep up with ever-increasing student enrollment,
alumni membership must be greater than 5 percent. It goes
even further, though, Mickey explained. A robust Alumni
Association ultimately benefits the university and adds value
to the degrees that have been awarded since 1974.
Involvement and support from alumni will help UTSA
reach its goal of becoming a Tier One university, also known
as a premier national research university, he said. In 2009,
UTSA was identified as one of seven universities vying for
that rank in Texas. This status is measured by research expenditures,
faculty publications and research citations, among
other criteria. Alumni membership helps increase UTSA's
overall national rankings, Mickey said.
Yvonne Jones, a 2006 UTSA graduate and staff member
since 1996, recently joined the Alumni Association. Although
she has always been involved with the university as an employee,
she never considered becoming an association member
"Whenever I get an e-mail from the association, I forward
it to my friends," said Jones, associate director of the Career
Center. "I want to get involved in one of the committees. I'm
hearing more about what [the association] wants to do in
terms of tradition and opportunities to give back through volunteering
and connecting with alumni, which I think is great.
Mickey wants to ensure that alumni also continue to benefit
from joining the association. So attracting more members has
become a quest for him, both personally and professionally.
"When I think about my involvement with UTSA, I have
fond memories as a student because I was a part of several
firsts: 1976 was the first year underclassmen were allowed
to attend UTSA, selection of the roadrunner as our
mascot was in '77 and the first fraternity on campus came
in '78," Mickey said. "Today, not only as an alumnus, but as
an employee of UTSA, I can help encourage other alums
to get involved in helping us build new Roadrunner pride
and traditions together."
Garza still has more than a year left before she can call
herself an alumna. But she already feels a strong connection
to the Alumni Association. It's because of her scholarship
that she's had her own set of college firsts.
It wasn't easy getting where she is now. In high school,
she applied for more than 100 scholarships so she could
"I lived in the counselor's office my entire senior year," she
said, laughing. "I was in there so much that we even became
But it was worth it to score the big one, she said.