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UTSA-hosted Student Experience Project Institute promotes belonging and academic growth in higher education

UTSA-hosted Student Experience Project Institute promotes belonging and academic growth in higher education

Students De’Von O’Neal, Mark Lopez and Maren Kitogo speak at the Student Experience Project Institute.

MARCH 8, 2023 — Higher education leaders from more than a dozen U.S. universities visited The University of Texas at San Antonio last week for the inaugural Student Experience Project Institute. The institute was co-sponsored by the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and Equity Accelerator.

The Student Experience Project (SEP), a collaboration of university leaders, faculty, researchers and national education organizations, launched in November 2019. SEP seeks to advance student success in higher education by focusing on building community and a sense of belonging on campus to create equitable learning environments.

At the inaugural SEP Institute, held March 2 and 3 at the UTSA Downtown Campus, participants learned from leading national scholars and received coaching from practitioners at universities who have implemented SEP practices to improve their classroom learning environments. The Institute also offered a design and planning process to engage faculty to support more equitable student experiences at their home institutions.


“We are honored to have been asked by USU and APLU to host the first SEP Institute.”



“Research clearly demonstrates that having positive experiences of community, belonging, and support on campus and in the classroom increases student persistence and degree completion,” said Tammy Wyatt, UTSA vice provost for student success. “As an urban, Hispanic Serving Institution where students from all backgrounds can thrive, UTSA is committed to innovative, research-based practices to increase degree attainment for our own Roadrunner students, as well as students nationwide, and we are honored to have been asked by USU and APLU to host the first SEP Institute.”

UTSA is one of 10 U.S. universities that form SEP’s Peer Learning Network, which seeks to foster belonging, growth mindset and purpose for students beginning on their first day of class.

Other UTSA staff and faculty participating in the Institute included Melissa Vito, vice provost for academic innovation, Amy Buechler-Steubing, director of student success initiatives; Kelsey Mattingly, institutional research analyst; Mark Appleford, associate vice provost of undergraduate studies and associate professor of biomedical engineering; Mark Leung, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business and professor of management science; Marcela Ramirez, associate vice provost of Teaching, Learning & Digital Transformation; Chad Mahood, associate professor of communication; and

Claudia Arcolin, executive director of digital learning. Also joining was Rebecca Karoff, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs of the University of Texas System, who leads and supports student success initiatives system-wide.

UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy welcomed participants on behalf of university leadership at a morning breakfast on March 2 at the new San Pedro I Building.


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“As proud participants of the Student Experience Project’s Peer Learning Network, we support the work of the SEP and understand that our students’ engagement and sense of belonging is tied to their success,” said Espy. “From the moment our students become Roadrunners, they find faculty, staff and fellow students dedicated to fostering a sense of campus community and belonging. Whether freshmen, transfer students or returning students, we have specialized advising, mentoring, academic support programming and faculty pedagogy training designed to foster belonging from day one, improve their student experience throughout their studies and promote success towards graduation.”

As part of the agenda of the two-day Institute, UTSA highlighted its award-winning faculty champions program, launched following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, through which UTSA instructors who are experienced with online teaching serve as peer mentors to other faculty. The sessions also included the following panel of Roadrunner students who shared their experiences of belonging at UTSA: Angelica Berrios, modern languages and literature; Colin Kalomiris, management; Maren Kitogo, kinesiology; Mark Lopez, architecture; De’Von O’Neal, music/music education; and Nadia Trevino, statistics and data science.

Rebecca Luther



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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


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UTSA’s Mission

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.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

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 promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.