Advancing Human Health: Timed perfectly to kick off the university’s second 50 years, UTSA announced the launch of an innovative college dedicated to advancing human health. Slated to begin enrolling students for fall 2020, the College for Health, Community and Policy will transform the way the university prepares students for modern, population-based health care settings.
The new college will incorporate UTSA’s health-related programs—including academic departments currently in the College of Public Policy and the departments of psychology, sociology, and kinesiology as well as nutrition and dietetics studies—to help students navigate health-related career options and give them a thorough understanding of the factors that contribute to human health and wellness.
The venture is intended to create opportunities for research across traditional disciplines, both within UTSA and with external partners, and is expected to be home to more than 175 faculty and more than 6,800 undergraduate and graduate students.
Cutting Edge of Breakthrough Treatments: UTSA has joined forces with three other San Antonio research institutions for a major initiative in precision therapeutics, the process that ultimately leads to breakthrough treatments that can be individualized to specific patient populations.
The initiative, San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics, was established with UT Health San Antonio, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, and Southwest Research Institute. It will address the specific and diverse medical needs of the Alamo City’s population, while serving as a model for the development of therapies to improve medical treatment around the world.
While precision medicine generally focuses on personalized interventions that are based on genetics, environment, and diet, precision therapeutics represents a unique merger of this discipline with the complete drug discovery pathway. This pathway includes basic research, lead compound development, formulation, testing, production, and clinical trials—all leading to new FDA-approved treatments.
In addition to better caring for San Antonians, the lessons learned from the SAPPT will provide scientists, researchers, and clinicians with a deeper understanding of how to improve health care in their own communities as their demographics shift to look more like San Antonio’s current population of 1.5 million, which is 65% Hispanic.
UTSA’s research portfolio in biomedicine, the nation’s top cybersecurity program, and robust expertise in cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence will lead to technological innovation and the creation of new algorithms to accelerate drug discovery and therapeutics. The university’s Center for Innovative Drug Discovery, a joint venture with UT Health San Antonio, also provides core facilities and expertise to facilitate the translation of basic scientific discoveries into tangible preclinical candidate drugs that can be further developed into clinical therapies for human disease.
Creating Bold Opportunities: To increase access to a college education for students from low- and middle-income families, the groundbreaking UTSA Bold Promise, initiative will cover 100% of an undergraduate’s tuition and fees for four years. Launched in fall 2019, the program is designed to create opportunities for students from across Texas whose families may not otherwise have been able to afford a college education.
“Every day, in everything we do, UTSA students, staff, and faculty embrace the ideal that education is the great equalizer of our society,” President Taylor Eighmy says. “UTSA was founded 50 years ago on the belief that San Antonians deserve access to high-quality education and opportunities. With UTSA Bold Promise, we are reaffirming that commitment and creating a pathway for students from all across the state to pursue higher education and build prosperity for themselves and their families.”
It’s open to first-time freshmen who are state residents and who come from families with an income up to $50,500 (the median income in San Antonio) and qualify for admission by ranking in the top 25% of their high school class.
Advancing the Labor Force: UTSA’s creation of the San Antonio Workforce Initiative is the next step in the university’s commitment to ensuring a qualified and educated workforce. It’s an effort that promotes continuing education and professional development for adult learners to support the city’s need for a skilled workforce.
Additionally, it advances UTSA’s capacity to meet the educational needs of San Antonio employers through customized degree and certificate programs in various disciplines.
Using both online instructional formats and traditional face-to-face and hybrid teaching methods, the program will accelerate the training of qualified workers to meet the region’s skilled employment needs.
“We can up our impact on our city by increasing the number and range of programs to support workers to advance in their current jobs,” says Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, “or to enable people without a college degree to finish and successfully compete for better-paying jobs.”
Bridging the Divide to San Antonio’s West Side: Just beyond the Downtown Campus is San Antonio’s West Side, an underserved world in need of hope for a bold, bright future. Shirley Gonzales, who represents the District 5 neighborhood on San Antonio’s city council, acknowledges that the area has struggled for years. “We thought we were going to have to revitalize, build businesses, and take care of families all on our own,” she says. “And then UTSA, under the leadership of Taylor Eighmy, came to help.”
Gonzales made this statement as UTSA announced plans to expand the Downtown Campus over the next 10 years, including working with the city to anchor a new technology district and provide opportunities and social mobility for the neighbors. Important steps in this expansion plan have been to establish the Westside Community Partnerships initiative to give families, business owners, and prospective students a part of the ownership and decision making as they grow along with UTSA.
The initiative is an ongoing plan to help shape educational, economic, and cultural programs and services for residents living and working in the eight ZIP codes that make up the community.
The initiative aligns with UTSA’s master plan process, which establishes a framework for the development of academic, research, and community outreach programs to serve San Antonio’s growing population. By creating a forum to encourage ongoing university-community dialogue, the initiative will help ensure that those programs and services are shaped in a way that is responsive to the needs of the community.
The first order of business was to open a community center in a historic building on Guadalupe Street near the campus and Lanier High School. This is a place where neighbors can come in, make connections, and learn about the opportunities a higher education can provide and how it is possible for anyone who dares to dream as well as for community and business leaders to discuss economic prosperity, educational excellence, sustainable partnerships, advocacy, community-campus engagement, and the benefits of working together.
Innovating on Data: Launched as an initiative in 2018, the School of Data Science answers the national call for a highly skilled workforce to fill growing needs in cybersecurity, data analytics, business intelligence, and digital asset management.
Collaboration across these distinct disciplines will foster radical innovation to address critical challenges. The school’s location in the heart of San Antonio on the Downtown Campus will provide government, industry, and community partners with access to UTSA’s nationally recognized programs and expertise. Construction on the new school is planned for fall 2020, to be completed in spring 2023.
Accessing the Best Minds in National Security: Targeting federal, state, and local agencies’ need for greater collaboration to protect America’s national security infrastructure, UTSA has established the National Security Collaboration Center.
Giving business and local government partners direct access to the technical expertise, highly trained students, and specialized facilities that make UTSA a premier program in cybersecurity, the NSCC is devoted to the advancement of cybersecurity, data analytics, and cloud computing to improve national security and global defense.
UTSA is leveraging its unique opportunities of being located in the nation’s second-largest cybersecurity hub and home to the largest concentration of cybersecurity experts and industry leaders outside Washington, D.C., firmly positioning the university and San Antonio to lead the nation in cybersecurity research and workforce development.
The center will be one of the core developments in UTSA’s Downtown Campus expansion.
The NSCC’s founding executive director, Guy M. Walsh, a retired Air Force brigadier general, brings a wealth of experience in building strategic alliances between federal and state government, academia, and industry partners. He is among the nation’s foremost leaders in national security as the inaugural strategic initiatives lead for U.S. Cyber Command, the Department of Defense’s newest Combatant Command.
As a hub for cyber activity in the region and a home for various federal and industry partners to engage with faculty and student researchers, the NSCC allows students direct access and engagement with innovative projects and—due to the highly secure environment—the opportunity to have government clearance that will help them secure higher-level job placements in government and industry more easily upon graduation.
Enhancing Athletics: UTSA’s athletics facilities won’t lag behind conference counterparts. The Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence is slated to be constructed on Main Campus. The multipurpose sports center will provide UTSA’s 350-plus student-athletes a hub to improve their own academic success, health, wellness, and performance.
The facility will be home to a much-improved strength and conditioning space, football locker rooms, offices for athletics administration, team meeting spaces, and an academic center. A sports medicine center, research labs, and classrooms will enhance academic collaboration with academic departments and public-private partnerships in health and sports medicine.
Most notably, the complex will feature an indoor practice field with an artificial turf surface adjacent to an outdoor practice field with a grass surface. Both have the potential to be used by local sports organizations and community partners.
The center will be developed in partnership with the Roadrunner Athletics Foundation. The $44 million estimated cost of the facility will be fully covered by external fundraising and philanthropic support.
Testing Beyond Limits: UTSA has recently opened one of the most unique research buildings in the country. The Large-Scale Testing Laboratory is a 50-foot-tall facility where civil engineers can test in a realistic setting the structural integrity of systems such as concrete buildings.
“This building is one of few of its kind in the country,” says JoAnn Browning, dean of the College of Engineering, commenting on the lab’s features, such as a reaction floor with the capability to apply test loads up to 4 million pounds of force—making it one of the highest reaction floor capacities in the U.S.
The laboratory will facilitate the testing of components and systems at near 100% scale. Civil engineering students and researchers will build and test structural systems, such as concrete beams. Areas of focus include bridge and building components and new materials needed for increasingly com-plex construction projects.
The $9.95 million facility serves the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where research has tackled preventing landslides, creating drinkable water from rainfall, and harvesting energy from hot pavement.
Upgrading Campus Living to Boost Success: UTSA’s drive to enhance student success reached a significant milestone recently, when construction started on Guadalupe Hall, the university’s newest living and learning community, designed for freshmen.
“This new living and learning community will dramatically impact the student campus experience, further supporting student success, especially among our freshman and first-generation student populations,” says Veronica Mendez, UTSA’s senior vice president for business affairs.
Data from UTSA’s Office of Institutional Research finds that first-generation freshmen have a retention rate of 76%, compared to 74% for first-generation students who live off campus. Among UTSA freshmen who are at-risk, students who live on campus have a retention rate of 69%, compared to 64% for the same group who live off campus.
“Guadalupe Hall is designed with a specific focus on student success and enhancing the campus experience with essential elements to help students thrive,” says Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “By providing our students with the tools to be successful from the day they step foot on campus we are starting them on a path to becoming workforce-ready and successful in a global economy.”
The integrated living and learning community will include group study areas and multipurpose space to give students more opportunities to engage faculty, staff, and fellow students. The residence hall will feature affordable double-occupancy rooms, which have repeatedly been shown by researchers to promote retention and social skills development. The four-story building will feature study lounges, an academic resources center, community lounges, community kitchens, laundry rooms, group study areas, a multipurpose and seminar room, and a coffee shop.
Students are expected to move in before the fall 2021 semester, raising the number of UTSA students living on campus to more than 4,500.
Boosting New Roadrunners: UTSA’s First Generation and Transfer Student Center has been recognized as a Program to Watch by Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.–based Latino advocacy organization. The university is one of only 20 programs selected out of 166 that were nominated for this recognition.
The center provides students with mentoring, student-success activities, and community-building opportunities through the First to Go and Graduate and the Roadrunner Transition Experience programs. Both initiatives aim to increase retention and graduation rates of the students they serve. Forty-five percent of UTSA undergraduates are first-generation college students and 41% are transfer students.
Rooted in the belief that peer mentors and faculty coaches can provide students with valuable and relatable information, resources, and advice, the center is a space and support network that helps these student populations become more engaged while attending UTSA and therefore more likely to graduate.
Helping Students with Unique Challenges: UTSA is enhancing its services for students with a history of foster care with its new Fostering Educational Success Center. A joint venture between the Division of Student Success and the Department of Social Work, the center is designed to help students with a history of foster care overcome the unique challenges they face in pursuing higher education.
“The mission of the center is to support all UTSA students who have a history of foster care through coaching, connecting them to resources on campus and in the community, and creating their own sense of community,” says Christopher Goldsberry, the center’s associate director.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, nearly 35,000 children are in the state’s foster care system. Research has shown that 33% of foster care alumni enroll in college, but just 1.3% graduate with a bachelor’s degree by age 24.
Goldsberry believes UTSA’s Fostering Educational Success Center can help improve these outcomes.
The center is complementary to a larger effort to reach out to youth in foster care in the region. The Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Pilot Project, a countywide collaboration between UTSA and other partners, was announced in September 2019 to create an array of educational support resources for current and former foster care youth.
“Young people that age out of the foster care system are particularly vulnerable,” says Peggy Eighmy, first lady of UTSA and a key leader of the effort to obtain funding from the Texas legislature for the county pilot project. “Many foster youths aspire to go to college, but only a small percentage attend, and an even smaller number graduate. This new center is a tangible demonstration of UTSA’s commitment to supporting these Roadrunners to make sure they can succeed in college.”