Community Connect

Office of the Vice President for Community Services


Alternative Spring Break

Volunteering over Vacationing

The UTSA 2013 Alternative Spring Break in Atlanta, Ga., focused on community, poverty, and youth

Jared Gonzales distributes mulch in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

When mathematics student Jared Gonzales, 23, heard about the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, coordinated by the UTSA student-run Volunteer Organization Involving Community Education and Service (VOICES) and the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion, he talked to fellow students who had taken part in former ASB trips. “They all said it was a life-changing experience, so I signed up myself,” he said.

In 2013, a group of UTSA students volunteered in San Antonio as camp assistants with the Children’s Museum. They set up educational activities, hosted a youth science camp and threw a well-received water day with the Good Samaritan Center. Two different ASB groups traveled to Atlanta. One of the groups volunteered with three different local nonprofits, as the students’ involvement ranged from maintaining a public park and feeding the homeless, to working for the Atlanta Community Toolbank.

Gonzales was part of a group in Atlanta that spent time with a local community center, the Boys & Girls Club and a safe house, where he and his peers helped with landscaping, painting and serving food to people in need. Instead of staying at a hotel, the students slept at a homeless shelter on makeshift foam mattresses in an act of solidarity with those they served. “That experience helped us see things from a different angle,” said Gonzales.

Throughout the week, all 35 UTSA participants took part in icebreaker games and reflection activities, helping them to get to know each other, as well as to think and talk about their values, beliefs and emotions related to the service they provided.

“Alternative Spring Break was an amazing and very rewarding experience,” Gonzales resumes. “Not only did it allow us students to give back to the community and to make new friends, but it also was a great learning and character-building experience,” Gonzales added.

The UTSA 2014 Alternative Spring Break students again divided into three groups, volunteered in St. Louis, Mo., Biloxi, Miss., and San Antonio. Going forward, VOICES and the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion are hoping to further expand the ASB program to incorporate an international destination as well.


College of Public Policy

UTSA Helps SA2020 with Voter Turnout and Local Leadership

The UTSA College of Public Policy is continuing its vital work as the lead partner of the SA2020 “Government Accountability and Civic Engagement” focus area, assisting Mayor Julián Castro to transform San Antonio into a world-class city. Currently, two work groups are tackling the area of civic engagement from different angles. One group aims to improve city-wide voter turnout by 2 percent every two years, with a special focus on low-turnout precincts. Fueled by the success at a past Campus Vote Challenge, where UTSA ranked 2nd in the nation for registering more than 3,000 voters, the group is using its proven expertise to build momentum.

The second team, “Citizens’ Academy work group,” concentrates on creating informed, engaged leaders capable of representing and advocating for their communities. Based on the model of leadership academies with a targeted recruitment of participants, this group provides access to the academy for community members who otherwise would not have an opportunity of this nature. The College of Public Policy seeks to collaborate with other universities on this effort, allowing the academy to rotate among institutions, thereby enhancing the sustainability of the program


Prep Program

1300 Young Scientists and Engineers

Hands-on education: Besides theoretical learning, PREP students visited businesses and research labs.

More than 1,300 middle and high school students in 2013 attended the Prefreshman Engineering Program (PREP). A UTSA-led collaboration of local school districts, colleges and universities, PREP encourages junior high and high school students to go through a rigorous eight weeks of mathematics-based learning and field trips to businesses and research labs, preparing them for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) while targeting underrepresented population groups in particular.

PREP’s institutional partners offered college scholarships totaling more than $1.5 million to third- and fourth-year graduates with averages of 90 percent or better.

In addition to San Antonio PREP, which provides one high school elective credit for successful completion of each session, 46 students participated in University PREP at UTSA, where students can earn college credits through the College of Sciences, and participate in internships and research projects.



20 Years of Service

VOICES celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013. As UTSA strives toward Tier One status, VOICES serves as a catalyst for students to become global citizens.

Students Tom Brown, Manny Longoria, Rosa Mina and Carl Muniz found VOICES

20 UTSA students embark to Reynosa, Mexico, for the first Alternative Spring Break, and VOICES introduces The Plunge—a UTSA day of service now called United to Serve

VOICES hosts the 4th Annual Southern Regional Conference on Student Community Service

University Life Awards “Most Outstanding Service Activity” Award Recipient

VOICES celebrates 20 years and founder Manny Longoria commits to a $55,000 endowment to service and leadership programs

Members - 300
2013 Service Hours - 7500
Service Projects - 232


STEM Initiatives

$1.4 Million Grant Helps Community College Students Become Math and Science Teachers

Hands-on education: Besides theoretical learning, PREP students visited businesses and research labs.

A $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation will assist community college students seeking to pursue teaching degrees in mathematics and science. The funding helps support the UTSA Generating Educational Excellence in Math & Science teaching program, which prepares students to become highly qualified science and mathematics teachers in San Antonio and underserved school districts in the region. Through the program, students take an enriched instructional curriculum in four years and earn a math or science degree along with their teaching credentials. Nearly 100 percent of its graduates find teaching employment in the San Antonio area. Under the new grant, community college students transferring to UTSA will be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in scholarships if they agree to teach at least four years at a high-needs school district in the San Antonio area.

Aaron Cassill, UTSA director of STEM initiatives and principal investigator, said, “Normally, we recruit students in their freshman year and give them actual classroom experience so they can decide if they want to pursue a career in teaching. The community college students were missing out on this experience, so with this new grant we will offer introductory classes at the community colleges to help smooth the transition.”

The UTSA College of Sciences has enlisted the expertise of the Academy for Teacher Excellence at UTSA, which since 2003 has received more than $17 million in funding and was nationally recognized in 2012 as an Example of Excelencia finalist for preparing teachers to teach in culturally diverse settings.


Degrees for Early Childhood Educators

Awarded with a grant from the City of San Antonio, the Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute at UTSA (CAPRI) works closely with preschool teachers, assistants and other early childhood educators, providing them with professional development. Through summer institutes, participants earn a total of nine college credit hours, paving the way for associate or bachelor’s degrees. Nine participants graduated last year and 190 educators are currently enrolled in the Early Childhood Teacher Initiative.

Complementing the program, CAPRI and the UTSA Mexico Center co-hosted the International Early Childhoodht Education Forum at the Downtown Campus, welcoming Mayor Julian Castro and experts from China, Mexico and the United States. Open to the public, the forum allowed for scholars, students and the community to discuss best practices and challenges in early childhood education.


Remembering the Holocaust

Students in the UTSA Honors College organized a Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Week in November, free and open to the public. Events were designed to remember the victims of genocide around the world and to remind fellow students and the community of what can happen to civilized people when bigotry, hatred and indifference reign. Kolleen Guy, associate professor in the Department of History, oversaw the project. “The students put together all activities including inviting guest lecturers and creating an educational exhibit,” she said.


AP Summer Institute grows

The UTSA Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI), offered by the Office of Extended Education in partnership with the College Board, continues to grow at a rapid pace. The 2013 APSI welcomed 382 participating middle and high school teachers from around the world – marking an increase of more than 27 percent compared to the previous year. Eighteen workshops were offered, with pre-AP as well as AP math and science courses taught at the Main Campus, while humanities workshops were at the Downtown Campus. The UTSA APSI provides teachers with the support and training needed to teach pre-AP and AP courses, and to utilize newly updated teaching strategies. High school advanced placement students can earn college credit in math, sciences, languages, arts and other disciplines.


National Award for Student Documentary

Behind Closed Doors: Voices from the Inside (TRAILER)

With an estimated 25 percent of the nation’s sex trafficking victims hailing from Texas, graduate students from the Department of Social Work in the College of Public Policy decided to address the issue through a documentary focusing on local sex trafficking of minors. Responsible for all aspects of the production, the students outlined the nature and scope of the problem, identified survivors willing to share their story, interviewed experts and organized a public showing. After the film was chosen by the Council on Social Work Education as one of nine official selections in its 2013 Virtual Film Festival, the online community voted the UTSA contribution “Behind Closed Doors: Voices from the Inside” as the overall winner.

Institute of Economic Development

$1.6 Billion— UTSA’s IED Records All-Time High in Direct Economic Impact

The UTSA Institute for Economic Development (IED) continues to contribute strongly toward building a top-tier UTSA and a top-tier San Antonio region. During fiscal year 2013, the IED generated $1.6 billion in direct economic impact—an all-time high— including $1.26 billion in increased sales, contracts and exports, and $350 million in new capital. It's the second consecutive year the institute’s professional business advising, training, research and strategic planning services to entrepreneurs, business owners and community leaders have exceeded the $1 billion threshold.

"Small businesses add up to big growth, and UTSA is committed to providing advising, training and research with high-impact results," said Robert McKinley, UTSA associate vice president for economic development. The IED served 36,115 business and community clients, assisted with 8,328 consulting cases, helped launch 523 businesses and supported 519 existing businesses to expand, thereby creating 4,176 new jobs and preserving 5,528 jobs. Primarily serving San Antonio and the Texas-Mexico border area as well as national and international stakeholders, the IED, through its variety of centers and programs, fosters economic development in support of the university’s community engagement efforts.