MARCH 23, 2023 — The UTSA Najim Center for Innovation and Career Advancement is expanding experiential learning opportunities for Roadrunners. The center will host its Career Innovation Summit and Najim Strategist presentations this spring, along with seven additional programs scheduled for the summer and fall semesters that focus on supporting the holistic development of students.
The increase in programming is an integral part of UTSA’s Classroom to Career (C2C) initiative, a university-wide framework that promotes career-focused, learning-by-doing opportunities for all UTSA students, providing an advantage for their future success. With its high-impact programming and projects, the Najim Center is a key member of UTSA Career-Engaged Learning, the unit within Academic Affairs that is charged with advancing this initiative.
The Career Innovation Summit aims to help students discover their existing leadership qualities and develop new leadership skills, while challenging the way they think about potential career choices. The summit will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 24 in the Student Union Travis and Harris Rooms on the UTSA Main Campus.
Students will participate in a series of collaborative sessions on leadership and team building during the summit, where they will dissect the “rise and grind” culture of glamorized workaholism, hustling, and burnout; explore how to lead where they are; and uncover their communication styles and core values to design their individual paths as UTSA students.
Chris Collins, an author and speaker who gives interactive workshops to students around the country, and UTSA Associate Director of Student Activities Jarvis Clark will facilitate the first two sessions of the event. The remaining sessions will be led by the Najim Center's student facilitator team, the Wayfinders.
“Our Career Innovation Summit is just one of many programs we have built over the last few years to help students gain hands-on, practical experiences,” said Rachael Miller, senior associate director of the Najim Center. “We’re giving students an opportunity to become more well-rounded individuals, which will prepare them for continued success at UTSA and in the workforce after graduation.”
Students participating in the Najim Strategist program work in teams in partnership with local San Antonio businesses, conducting field research to develop inventive, viable solutions to challenges facing their partnering organization. Offered in both the spring and fall semesters, the program gives students real-world, paid experience in the workforce.
Following the completion of their eight-week-long projects, each strategist team will present their research and recommendations to the partnering businesses on Thursday, April 27.
Former Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff will also be in attendance during the presentations to offer insight and encouragement to the participating students. Wolff joined UTSA in a non-faculty role in January with plans to share his knowledge and experiences with UTSA students across disciplines, as well as help bring a variety of guest speakers and mentors to campus.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Judge Wolff to our strategist presentation event, and it’s a great way for us to conclude this round of projects,” said Erica Clark, associate director of the Najim Center. “Each strategist team works directly in the community as part of this program. Judge Wolff has decades of experience serving the San Antonio community, so our students can learn a lot from him.”
The Najim Center has significantly expanded its programs and events since opening in 2020, offering many unique opportunities for all UTSA students to supplement traditional classroom instruction with concrete training and experiences. Programs include project-based learning, competitions, personal development programs, scholarships and even a summer study abroad experience. Participating students receive credit on their Experience Transcript and, depending on the program, may receive a stipend.
To help assist with this increase in programming, the Najim Center has expanded its staff as well. Two of their newest team members are Katherine Rico and Antonia Taylor, who joined the center as program coordinators this spring.
Both held graduate assistant positions at UTSA before transitioning into full-time roles, and Taylor, a former graduate assistant with the Najim Center, has worked to build the Identity, Equity and Connection program and the Innovate Yourself in 3D program from the ground up. The programs she designed focus on personal and professional development, helping students explore and embrace their identities, and community service.
“Antonia worked extremely hard to create these programs over the last year while she was a graduate assistant. She brought her unique background and strengths to our team, and we provided her with immersive experiences in which she could expand her knowledge and skills,” Miller said. “We’re excited that both Antonia and Katherine can now flourish in the workforce as full-time members of our staff, and they are prime examples of the university’s classroom to career initiative in action.”
The Najim Center for Innovation and Career Advancement was established in 2020 by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Harvey E. Najim with a $3 million gift to UTSA. Najim wanted to create a space where all students could access resources for career exploration and preparation and discover experiential learning opportunities. In 2022, Najim committed another $2 million gift to expand the center’s reach, build its network in downtown San Antonio, and provide more students with hands-on learning experiences.
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