Office of the President

UTSA has initiatives to match - and help - San Antonio

June 1, 2019
Taylor Eighmy for the San Antonio Express News
UTSA has initiatives to match - and help - San Antonio

Dreaming big for UTSA means dreaming big for San Antonio. Big dreams, after all, have always been part of our shared history.

As we commemorate June 5, 1969, the day that Texas Gov. Preston Smith signed the legislation to create UTSA as an institution “of the first class” under “an imperative public necessity,” we honor the leaders who dreamed big for San Antonio, championed UTSA into existence and ensured the city would no longer be the largest in the nation without a public university.

Our dreams today — for the university and San Antonio — are even bigger than they were when UTSA was founded. In overseeing our city’s largest university, I take to heart UTSA’s role as a public urban-serving institution. That vision provides the framework for everything we do, and it keeps us firmly focused on our students’ journeys toward earning their degrees. When we ensure their success, we ensure our city’s success.

Our founders recognized UTSA’s potential to create prosperity and to drive socioeconomic mobility for South Texas. In essence, they laid the groundwork for San Antonio to become what it is today: one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, a city that people are drawn to for its history, culture and way of life as much as for its career and educational opportunities. It’s fitting that the founders’ vision is reflected in UTSA’s reputation.

UTSA has a list of achievements that rivals institutions twice its age. UTSA is ranked in the top 3.6 percent of universities in the world, according to the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Last year, the publication also named UTSA one of the top five young universities in the nation — the sixth time UTSA has made the list. An emerging research powerhouse on the cusp of attaining Carnegie R1 status, indicating the highest level of research activity for a doctoral university, UTSA draws brainpower from 47 states and 86 countries.

Yet these accomplishments tell only part of the story.

Our trajectory to excellence is steep for such a young university — and in terms of university years, UTSA is indeed young. Yet in so many ways we are continuing to fulfill the purpose our founders intended 50 years ago: to be an engine for opportunity. Nearly half of our students will be the first generation in their families to earn a college degree, and nearly 70 percent are eligible to receive financial aid.

UTSA’s primary job is to provide affordable education of the highest quality to those pursuing their dreams. To paraphrase University of Texas System Chancellor James Milliken, talent is equally distributed in our society while opportunity is not. We take great pride in our efforts to serve San Antonio’s diverse population as a military-friendly environment and as a leading Hispanic-Serving Institution.

Our razor-sharp focus on maximizing opportunities and our physical environment is key to fostering excellence for all students. In fact, we’ve launched a number of initiatives over the past two years to meet our aggressive goals to become a model for student success. One initiative, Classroom to Career, aims to have at least 75 percent of our students graduating with some professional experience by placing them in local businesses, nonprofits or other organizations.

Simultaneously we are developing our capacity to compete with the finest public research institutions in the nation. UTSA’s research capabilities are strengthened by faculty with recognized expertise in areas with life-changing potential, including human health, smart infrastructure, advanced materials, and social and economic transformation.

We are also leveraging our strengths to build a national security powerhouse for San Antonio, armed with the most powerful cyber, computing, cloud and data analytics teams of highly recruited faculty and government and business professionals, along with our student scholars. Our plans for a new National Security Collaboration Center and School of Data Science on our Downtown Campus will further boost San Antonio’s identity as Cyber City, USA.

With more than 6,000 graduates receiving UTSA degrees each year and two-thirds remaining in Texas after graduation to enter the workforce, we are fueling the knowledge economy to meet the needs of our growing society. And our goal to expand our Downtown Campus — to better serve the urban core of the city and to grow our overall enrollment to 45,000 — will not only answer the national call for a highly skilled workforce but will attract government and industry partners to San Antonio.

Our trajectory will make us an even more impactful university in the future. We will grow to serve more students. We will be driven by excellence through a more profound discovery enterprise. We will become more globally relevant and urban engaged.

Our strategic destinations drive our path forward as a model for student success, a great public research university and an exemplar for strategic growth to best meet the needs of our community.

All these plans — in tandem with the ascent of San Antonio — tell a striking story about the city we’re destined to be. UTSA is uniquely positioned to tackle San Antonio’s grand challenges because of its deep integration in a region that reflects the demographic forecast for the United States. We are living in the city of the future. UTSA shares that destiny as the university of the future.

UTSA’s success and San Antonio’s success go hand in hand.

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