Commencement Spotlight: Richard Giddens, Jr. is Cambridge-bound
(May 1, 2017) -- Meet Richard "Richie" Giddens, Jr. In the fall, this women's studies/humanities double major will unpack his bags and begin a new adventure at Cambridge University in England.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Giddens, 35, took a non-traditional journey into higher education. He began taking community college classes in 1999 and took a break prior to enrolling at UTSA. During those interim years, he worked as a licensed real estate agent then as a licensed cosmetologist, a line of work he was inspired to pursue by his mother's own career as a beautician.
Cosmetology helped Giddens shape his identity. In his youth, Giddens became an advocate for social justice and a lover of the Greco-Roman classics. In high school, his mother allowed him to experiment with his style, and he became an ardent fan of self-expression. Those experiences helped Giddens realize that he wanted a career that would allow him to help others express their humanity.
When it was time to consider universities, Giddens was drawn to the UTSA Women's Studies Institute, which is recognized for its extensive work in the community, and as well as the university's classics program. He also joined the UTSA Honors College and the McNair Scholars Program.
"I was always very much into human rights activism, and queer activism, in particular, and that's what led me to the Women's Studies program at UTSA," Giddens said. "I've wanted to study the classics in order to really understand how people who may have been LGBT lived and presented themselves throughout history. The Women's Studies Institute has been phenomenal in helping me understand the recent past, the present and the future."
Giddens says that the unique viewpoints and mentorship from faculty and his fellow students in the UTSA Women's Studies Institute provided him with a strong academic direction, one that he feels would not have been possible anywhere else.
"In the Women's Studies Institute, we have excellent professors who are very much not about the mainstream feminist movements," Giddens said. "We've learned about women of color and, specifically, queer women of color authors, experiences that we don't often get in the mainstream narratives. I came to UTSA looking for mentors, and I found them."
As a UTSA student, Giddens has been able to study a variety of issues. For the last several years, he has been engaged in research into the lives and experiences of queer Mexican-Americans in Texas, or 'Tejano/as,' and sexual assault.
In particular, Giddens has examined the social services and resources available, as well as what they might be lacking, for survivors through first-hand accounts from the people those resources are meant to support. He aims to create an archive of self-care and self-love resources for the country's most vulnerable communities and has already presented his research at conferences and universities across the country.
Building a foundation of academic success at UTSA attracted Cambridge's admissions officers to offer Giddens a placement in its Master's of Philosophy degree program in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. He starts the program this fall, on the heels of his UTSA graduation.
"At UTSA, I have been embraced as an underrepresented student for my subjectivity, my studies and my passions," said Giddens. "I have been propelled into directions that I never thought possible, like this journey to Cambridge, and that's all thanks to UTSA."
Learn more about the B.A. in Classical Studies and Humanities at UTSA.
Learn more about the UTSA Women's Studies Program.
Learn more about the UTSA Honors College.
Learn more about UTSA Commencement.
Meet other Spring 2017 graduates.
The Leadership Storytelling Homecoming Brunch brings together UTSA alumni and students to share a delicious meal as well as a roundtable conversation about how experiences in college carry us forward on unique leadership journeys.University Center, Denman Room (UC 2.01.28), Main Campus
The conference is dedicated to sharing recent knowledge and experiences gained in the area of Big Data by researchers in academia, industry and the government sectors within the areas of business, national security, infrastructure, healthcare and visualization.H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, via webcast, will examine America’s economic, political and security relations with China during CHINA Town Hall, an 80-city live discussion and Q&A on China and Sino-American relations.Building Building, Richard Liu Auditorium (BB 2.01.02), Main Campus
The African American Studies program proudly presents William "Cruz" Shaw, San Antonio City Councilman and UTSA Alumnus. Event is free and open to the public.University Center, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
The graduate fair is an opportunity for the UTSA student body and local San Antonio community to learn about graduate education opportunities. The event is free and open to the public.H-E-B University Center Ballroom (1.104), Main Campus
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA students to "Pizza With The Prez." Come grab a slice of pizza and take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President. Pizza while supplies last.Frio Street Building, Food Court Commons Area, Downtown Campus
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA faculty and staff to "Tacos With Taylor." Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President at any one of these casual meet and greets.Biotechnology, Science and Engineering Building atrium, Main Campus
The College of Engineering Student Council and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce host this fun and education event. Erika Camacho is the keynote speaker. Children and families are welcome.East Campus Parking Lot, Valero Way, Main Campus