UTSA has made a tremendous effort to transcend its federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution by taking bold steps to become a Hispanic thriving institution. New recognition—bestowed by Excelencia in Education, the national organization that seeks to accelerate Latino student success in higher education—makes it clear that the university’s efforts have not passed by unnoticed.
Excelencia in Education announced October 1 that UTSA is one of five institutions in its 2020 cohort to earn the Seal of Excelencia certification. The honor is awarded to colleges and universities that are deemed as intentionally supporting and reinforcing their institutional capacity to better serve Latino students. UTSA joins an elite group of 13 other institutions that have earned the designation.
In a letter from Excelencia in Education President Sarita E. Brown and CEO Deborah A. Santiago, UTSA was commended for its intentional institutional focus to advance Hispanic student success by aligning data and practice, as well as its dedication to foster an environment where Latino students thrive.
“UTSA has a special responsibility to increase access to higher education and support the efforts of our Latino students to complete their degrees, which opens up a lifetime of opportunities not only for themselves but for their families and our community. It really has that ripple effect,” says Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “The future prosperity of our region, state and nation depends on it.”
To make strides as a Hispanic thriving institution, UTSA is embracing its founding identity and Latino leaders, purposefully supporting its majority Hispanic student population, and hiring historically underrepresented faculty, staff and leaders who reflect the South Texas community the university serves. Through thoughtful policies, practices, and support, UTSA is tackling institutional inequities to accelerate educational success for the university’s Hispanic students and professional opportunities for Hispanic faculty and staff.
In its consideration process for the seal, Excelencia in Education confirmed that UTSA has implemented and advanced evidence-based programs and policies—and displayed positive momentum—in six key areas benefitting Hispanic students: enrollment; retention; financial support; degree completion; arriving and departing transfers; and the representation of Latinos in administration, faculty, and staff to further model success.
Some of UTSA’s programs, policies, and practices that are helping Hispanic students thrive
⇒ Transformative programs, such as UTSA Ready, PREP, TRiO, and Dual-Credit
⇒ The LEAD Summer Academy, a summer bridge program for first-year students—67% of which are Latino
⇒ Prioritized recruitment of students in the Rio Grande Valley as well as Del Rio, Uvalde, and Bexar counties
⇒ First to Go & Graduate programming, which includes first-generation faculty coaches and peer mentors
⇒ The Resilience and Retention Advising Program, established to increase retention rates of high-risk students
⇒ The Dreamers Resource Center, addressing unique legal, health care, and financial needs of UTSA Dreamers
⇒ The Bold Promise Program, a free tuition program for high-achieving students from low- to middle-income families
⇒ The Distinguished Presidential Scholarship for incoming freshman students based on academic achievement
⇒ Financial emergency and support services, such as Roadrunner Pantry and the Fostering Educational Success Center
⇒ The Graduation Help Desk, a centralized support center that helps students resolve roadblocks
⇒ Academic Advising’s student success technology platform, which assists advisers in managing their student caseloads and identifying populations in need of attention
⇒ Centers at the Colleges of Business, Engineering, and Sciences that collaborate with university-level student success units
⇒ The Roadrunner Transition Experience, providing incoming transfer students with programming and peer mentoring
⇒ A recruitment plan that identified market demands, enrollment trends, and the importance of diversity of new transfers
⇒ Two special transfer transition programs with the Alamo Colleges District
Faculty and Staff Representation
⇒ Updated requirements for all tenured and tenure-track faculty searches to require complete Inclusive Searches training
⇒ The Faculty Diversity Hiring Program, providing designated funding to hire diverse faculty
⇒ New division of Faculty Success in Academic Affairs to focus on the life cycle of a faculty member
The university was motivated to further improve how it aided Hispanic students in 2019 after members of La Raza Faculty and Administrator Association challenged UTSA to do more to serve the working-class Mexican American population in South Texas that had been “underserved by higher education.” University leadership took the group’s feedback to heart. “I’d like to thank our colleagues in La Raza who have been dedicated from the beginning in helping to make UTSA an honorable Hispanic Serving Institution,” President Taylor Eighmy says.
Eighmy points out, however, that this is not a concluding moment. “UTSA won’t become an exemplary Hispanic thriving institution upon receiving the Seal of Excelencia. It’s a state of being that we will continue to work toward going forward,” he says. “It’s a waypoint for this university, not the destination.”