Thursday, January 4, 2024

Research opportunities lead UTSA grad Nixon Maldonado toward the uplifting power of architecture

Research opportunities lead UTSA grad Nixon Maldonado toward the uplifting power of architecture

MAY 17, 2023 — Life is a short journey. While people can’t fight it, Nixon Maldonado knows that works of architecture can stand the test of time.

The same can be said of Maldonado’s own spirit. He is constantly curious for knowledge and wanting to share beauty despite having endured life’s most turbulent times. That has ultimately led him to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture from the UTSA Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design.

Born in El Salvador, Maldonado was raised by his grandmother alongside his twin aunts. His parents came to the United States to establish a life of opportunity for their son away from the shadow of gang violence.

“Before I leave this world, I want to leave a legacy of goodness, of positivity.”

“It was the best thing that my parents could have done,” he said. “I appreciate them for that, because it wasn’t easy but by them making the decision and bringing me here – that is something I have no words to say how thankful I am.”

His father immigrated first to begin establishing their new lives. Four years later, his mother followed. Maldonado was eight months old. He was reunited with his parents 12 years later.

“Living in the United States is not an easy thing when we are from another country. Coming as a brand-new person, not knowing the language is hard. But education was my exit,” Maldonado said.

From Gabriela Sandoval Luna who taught him English at LEE High School, professor Dwayne Bohuslav who introduced him to human-centered design and sustainable architecture at San Antonio College to professor James Rick Lewis at the UTSA School of Architecture and Planning, Maldonado considers himself a lucky person. Everywhere he goes, he finds people willing to help push him in the right direction.

“Professor Lewis opened up the doors to this new world of research, something that I really emphasize every time I meet someone or prospective students,” Maldonado said. “UTSA is all about research.”

With Lewis’ encouragement, Maldonado applied and was accepted to an undergraduate independent research study. The opportunity granted him the experience of beautiful spaces. He traveled to Dallas to study the Perot Museum, he walked the space of the Kimbell Museum — a site he’d only seen in books — in Fort Worth and discovered the transformative power of light and dark spaces at Houston’s Menil Collection by Renzo Piano.

“Walking through the spaces made me understand how architecture has the power to make you feel something when you walk into another reality of space. It’s transformative,” expressed Maldonado. “It’s a walk in the spaces of silence and understanding light and form that really inspires me to create spaces that will uplift the human spirit.”

Learn more about the Spring 2023 Commencement ceremonies.

Maldonado’s spirit is undeniably evident in his eyes as he recalls his most memorable experiences from his time at UTSA. This month’s graduation will be among them.

When Maldonado graduated from LEE High School, he was excited. Family had traveled and they prepared for a celebration, but the tone quickly changed when they received news that his uncle was killed. The moment, meant to be celebratory and joyful, turned into a tragedy.

His graduation with an associate degree from San Antonio College took place during the height of the pandemic and was a reminder of what happened two years prior. Maldonado’s graduations up until now have been beset with moments of sadness, but this one, he says, is different. It’s the beginning of the rest of his life.

“Before I leave this world, I want to leave a legacy of goodness, of positivity. We cannot fight against time, but these works of art stand the test of time. We see it from the prehistoric times to the Greeks and the Romans. Buildings are something that will stay. They will shelter and protect you. That’s what inspires me. That’s how I think of architecture — as a place of healing, a place of safety,” Maldonado said.

Ari Castañeda

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Send your feedback to

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 Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.




University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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.