Community Connect
Office of the Vice President for Community Services

Institute for Economic Development

Developing Young Professionals at UTSA

By Jennilee Garza

Matthew Jackson discusses the mission of the SBDCNet and its ongoing research projects while serving as a Business Economic Research Associate.

Matthew Jackson discusses the mission of the SBDCNet and its ongoing research projects while serving as a Business Economic Research Associate.

Although faced with grueling class schedules, students who work at the UTSA Institute for Economic Development accept their roles with a mindset prepared for chal¬lenges. At the Institute, students become the business research assistants, foreign investment specialists and international market research specialists who provide invaluable services that directly impact Insti¬tute business advisors and clients. Students' contributions lead to client successes, and help them reach major milestones in their career paths.

In 2011, Matthew Jackson, an alumnus of The University of Texas at San Antonio, joined the Institute as a part time research¬er. Today, he serves as the Director of the Small Business Development Center Network's National Information Clearing¬house and oversees the selection process of student researchers for the Institute.

SBDCNet is the only official research branch of the nation's network of Small Business Development Centers and has completed more than 80,000 small business research projects since its inception. From manufacturing in Pennsylvania, to wine production in California, to medical innova¬tion in Texas, the SBDCNet serves diverse needs in communities far and wide. Just as in other cities across the U.S., the SBDCNet has contributed to numerous projects in San Antonio that have positively impacted job creation and economic development.

When Jackson joined the Institute as an undergraduate, running the SBDCNet was not within the realm of his career plans. But, Jackson says he has always had an entrepre¬neurial spirit. In 2012, he became a full time Business Economic Research Associate while earning his graduate degree, and won the role of director in 2016. Jackson attributes much of his success to the institutes's grow¬ing awareness and focus on the importance of meaningful learning experiences for students.

"At the end of the day, we are about com¬munity development, and part of developing our community is developing our students and our youth," said Jackson. "Through that effort we're able to fulfill our dual missions of empowering our external communities and developing our internal community."

He says he tries to empower his re¬searchers, both student and professional, by assigning them to projects that play on their skill set. Whether it is a project on urban development or public policy, Jackson finds the best fit based on a researcher's field of study or area of growing interest, which also challenges them to develop and diversify their portfolio.

Beyond Jackson's professional role with the Institute, he serves as a co-lead with Se¬nior International Business Advisor Alberto Rodriguez-Baez, on the institutes's taskforce for Student Experiential Learning. Together, Jackson and Rodriguez-Baez drive one of the Institutes's major strategic goals toward empowering students through effective and meaningful learning experiences.

The SBDCNet collaborates with another research branch of the Institute known as the Center for Community and Business Research, overseen by Senior Research Director Thomas Tunstall. Students engage in a variety of research projects at the local, state, national and international levels.

To expand its scope, the institute also partners with UTSA's colleges. Through a collaboration with the College of Business, the San Antonio Small Business Develop¬ment Center offers a QuickBooks Intern-ship. The internship earns students course credit while they gain on-the-job training. Additionally, the SASBDC seeks motivated students for its Graduate Research In¬ternship Program internship year-round, allowing students to work alongside small business advisors. Both internship opportu¬nities are paid and push students to interact and network with potential employers while learning about financial projections, research, and business plans.

"Student researchers are a critical component of our clients' success," said UTSA Senior Associate Vice President for Economic Development Robert McKinley. "Their research provides entrepreneurs with valuable information and solutions. Meanwhile, students gain practical business experience."