SEPTEMBER 9, 2021 — Editor’s note: This story is the second in a four-part series highlighting the new Academic Success District. Read the first article in the series here; Part three will highlight the new Academic Innovation center designed to support innovative instructional practices and promote collaborative learning between faculty and students; Part four will summarize the key components of the Academic Success District.
When Roadrunners return to campus this semester, they'll find exciting new upgrades to nearly two dozen classrooms across Main Campus. The upgrades demonstrate UTSA’s commitment to investing in, reinventing and reinvigorating its physical spaces and instructional technology, helping students build bold futures.
Through integrated technology, BB 02.01.06 in the Business Building has been updated to serve as an "Active-Connected" classroom.
Academic Affairs, Business Affairs and University Technology Solutions collaborated to create inclusive, innovative and accessible environments for the Roadrunner community. UTSA designed these spaces after engaging students and faculty through surveys and in close consultation with faculty and student organizations. UTSA also examined larger, long-term trends in education and created its own dynamic vision of the future of classrooms.
Business Affairs and Academic Innovation, a division of Academic Affairs, surveyed classrooms in 11 buildings to identify spaces with the greatest need for improvements. A project committee, which included members of senior leadership, then met to review the scope of the project, ensuring the upgrades would be the most beneficial for students.
“We approached classroom upgrades strategically. To identify renovation needs, we conducted an evaluation of all our campus classrooms to rate the condition of their technology, furniture, flooring, paint, HVAC and lighting,” said Veronica Salazar Mendez, chief financial officer and senior vice president for business affairs. “We also conducted an interactive survey with students to understand their furniture preferences and needs to ensure we provide an optimal classroom experience.”
The interactive furniture survey allowed students to sample different furniture designs in-person and then provide their feedback. The primary objective in furniture selection was to provide comfort and flexibility in an active learning environment. Where possible, the new furniture can be quickly and easily reconfigured to support a wide variety of learning and studying styles, from the traditional lecture style to pairs or small group work.
Academic Innovation also led focus groups with faculty and students to learn more about their specific needs. The conversations helped the UTSA team better understand what was important to students and faculty respectively when it came learning and teaching in a classroom environment. As a result of its outreach and feedback process, Academic Innovation prioritized technology solutions and designed support programs.
Through integrated technology, BB 02.01.18 in the Business Building has been updated to serve as an "Active-Connected" classroom.
These conversations, in part, helped fine-tune the plans for the four classroom personas: Core, Connected, Active-Connected and Cisco Unified classrooms. During Academic Innovation’s focus groups, faculty shared the importance of having a consistent experience from classroom to classroom, the desire to have guest speakers join remotely and the need to ensure that the technology supports their pedagogies. The classroom personas provide a variety of digital integrations within the physical space and allow faculty and students to use remote tools and rearrange classrooms to better suit their learning needs. Students will also have the ability to participate in the live classroom experience from a remote location.
“We are excited to see how these classrooms are used by students and faculty,” said Melissa Vito, vice provost for academic innovation. “These upgrades are an opportunity to continue experimenting with how the intersection of learning in a physical and digital space can help our students succeed at UTSA and in their future endeavors.”
The personas reinforce UTSA’s growing focus on digital accessibility and functionality for all students, helping students thrive on their academic journeys and allowing faculty to provide an inclusive and equitable learning experience. Classroom updates will be standardized so that all Roadrunners know how to use the integrated technology to their advantage. The updates will also help the university accommodate new learning styles in the future.
"UTSA has made important investments that support our faculty's ability to innovate in the classroom by providing collaborative digital tools and training," says UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. "These classroom upgrades will facilitate faculty efforts to further incorporate innovative teaching practices into their classes and put our Roadrunners in high-quality learning environments that deepen student learning."
The combination of technology and in-person instruction encourages and cultivates digital literacy and soft-skill development through the use of UTSA-provided tools. One notable example of students’ digital development is the Defining Moments interdisciplinary project. This project encouraged the use of the Adobe Creative Suite, which students, faculty and staff have free access to given UTSA’s designation as an Adobe Creative Campus.
These renovations and improvements are possible thanks to federal funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Approximately $103.3 million of UTSA’s $176.4 total HEERF funding has been allocated for institutional support, which includes ongoing strategic initiatives to improve the Roadrunner learning environment.
In September 2020, Academic Affairs announced the Academic Success District Initiative as an opportunity to more effectively utilize campus space in a manner that advances institutional objectives for student success and faculty excellence. Led by Espy and Senior Director of Space Management Joshua Gerken, divisions within Academic Affairs and Business Affairs—including Academic Innovation, Student Success, Space Management and Facilities—worked collaboratively with faculty and students to identify and design the spaces, share resources, and move the Academic Success District from concept to completion.
The Racial Justice Book Club was established at UTSA by members of the campus community to explore social justice following acts of racial violence across the nation over the last few years. We are reading The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas by Monica Muñoz Martinez. We will meet every Wednesday in September and October at 2 pm on Zoom.Virtual Event
We invite you to learn about the process of screenwriting and explore the intersection of identity and pursuing dreams from Jorge Ramirez-Martinez and Raymond Perez, screenwriters for the Selena: The Series, released on Netflix. They will discuss their careers and writing process, including how their identities as Mexican American and gay men have shaped their professional experiences.Virtual Event
Please join us in remembering those who have entered the next part of life by designing a nicho box in their memory. This workshop will provide the necessary items to create your nicho box, though please remember to bring a photo or small object that can fit in a 3.5 x5x1 inch box (small jewelry box).John Peace Library GroupSpot B, Main Campus
Come celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month with La Comunidad at The University of Texas at San Antonio. We will have food, games and dancing!H-E-B Student Union Ballroom 1 & 2, Main Campus
LMSA invites you to join us in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month through an interactive cooking lesson! This cultural experience will teach you how to prepare a popular Mexican dish, street taquitos. You will be able to sample this dish and learn the recipe to use in your own home.Recreation Wellness Center Demo Kitchen
Future Roadrunners will see what Roadrunner life is all about at UTSA Day. All of Main Campus transforms into our UTSA Day open house for Future Roadrunners and their families to explore the university experience.Main Campus
Learn about the LGBTQIA+ community and being an Ally and advocate for LGBTQIA+ people, communities, and the issues that impact the LGBTQIA+ community.Multicultural Student Center for Equity and Justice Lounge, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.