Message from the Provost Faculty Success

Start of Fall 2022 classes

August 23, 2022
Academic Strategic Communications
Start of Fall 2022 classes

Editor’s note: The following message was sent today via email from Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy to all faculty and staff within Academic Affairs:

Dear Colleagues,

Few things are more exciting than the start of the fall semester! I hope you have returned from a summer well spent with friends and family, personal and professional development, and relaxation and rejuvenation. However — if you are like me — you look forward to a new year with so many possibilities ahead to better serve our students, develop new knowledge, and serve our communities.

Over the last two years, your flexibility, ingenuity and optimism has helped us learn and incorporate new and innovative practices to chart an exciting future for our university and students. As I reflect on all we have accomplished together, I am grateful for all you do and look forward to seeing you, once again, on our bustling campus! There are so many gems to celebrate as we return this fall.

Expanding Access to Higher Education

As a result of our continued commitment to expand access to quality higher education, we welcome a large class of new, accomplished first-year students who have chosen to pursue their goals at UTSA. We have increased our reach to help students realize their dream of a college education through the increased income threshold for participation in our Bold Promise program for students from middle- and lower-income families.

UTSA invested an additional $5 million in aid to support our students thanks to a new endowment from the UT System Board of Regents last year and a generous gift from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett. Additionally, the Bold Scholars pilot provides students with a residential campus experience and learning community in Chisholm Hall.

Welcoming New and Returning Faculty

This fall, UTSA welcomes a new cohort of nearly 100 accomplished tenured, tenure-track and full-time fixed-term-track faculty — colleagues who hail from a host of outstanding institutions from around the world. We also extend a special welcome to Jonathon Halbesleben, Bodenstedt Chair, Tom C. Frost Distinguished University Chair for Business Excellence and our new dean of the Alvarez College of Business.

UTSA faculty are distinguished leaders in their fields, winning honors and accolades near and far. Of particular note is Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design biomedical engineering professor Rena Bizios, who was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the spring. Bizios was previously elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2022, the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in 2019 and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015. Professor of instruction in the University College Diane Abdo is another example of UTSA’s stellar faculty. One of our longest-serving faculty members, Abdo is a 2022 recipient of the Piper Professor Award in recognition of her commitment to higher education and her dedication to her students. Our faculty truly is second to none!

Growing our Reputation as a Destination of Excellence

At the top of the list of our collective achievements is UTSA’s Carnegie R1 classification! The new R1 designation enabled us to become a founding member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. This consortium was established by 21 of the nation’s top research universities designated as Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Together, we are working to diversify the professoriate, advance humanities scholarship and, more generally, promote social mobility and economic opportunities for Latino students and their communities. Additionally, our work in the Hispanic Thriving Institution Leadership Council this last year has progressed, with a game plan that draws upon the national “servingness” framework developed by our own COEHD faculty member, Vanessa Sansone, and her colleagues, as well as the Excelencia model that puts data into action.

Expanding our Academic Impact

In June, we learned that the Bexar County Commissioners Court gave preliminary approval to a $10 million award from Bexar County’s American Rescue Plan Act for the development of The University of Texas School of Public Health San Antonio. The new collaborative school, a strategic partnership with UT Health San Antonio, will allow us to meet critical public health workforce needs in our community.

In July, we recruited internationally known and highly respected physician-scientist and clinical epidemiologist Dr. Vasan Ramachandran to lead the new School as the founding dean. He serves as principal investigator of the world-renowned Framingham Heart Study — the longest-running national epidemiological study that informs many of our national health guidelines. We look forward to welcoming him to our community later in September.

Progress continues in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) Tactical Visioning process, including the university’s integration with the Southwest School of Art. As a result of the joining of UTSA and the Southwest School of Art, UTSA welcomed five new faculty and 28 BFA students. A national search for the founding director of the new school has been launched, chaired by Vice Provost Lisa Montoya and Department of Music Chair Tracy Cowden. This summer, a group of 22 faculty furthered the planning to establish a new Interdisciplinary School in COLFA that will be a “makerspace”; bringing together faculty and students from across the liberal and fine arts to learn and discover in an environment of collaborative transdisciplinary engagement. Together, these efforts and others soon to be announced, constitute a reimagined COLFA under Dean Martínez’s leadership that will serve UTSA, San Antonio and the South Texas region well into the next decade.

Advancing our community and workforce, UTSA continues to expand our academic program offerings, including:

Magnifying our Support for Students

The Academic Success District initiative has enhanced the visibility and navigability of key student academic support offices and promoted collaborative learning environments. I am particularly delighted to begin this academic year with a Student Success Center in each UTSA college, a direct line to university-wide resources and college-specific programs that prepare students for their future careers.

As part of the initiative, upgraded dynamic classrooms provide a consistent experience in physical and digital learning environments. Thirteen classrooms were upgraded in four distinct classroom personas in the project’s first phase, with 68 more included in the subsequent phases. The classroom design and support services allow students and faculty to move seamlessly between the physical classroom and online environment according to their preferences. Please note that some of the technology has not yet arrived due to supply chain issues and temporary hardware may be in place. Visit RowdyFlex to learn about the technology and pedagogy in the new classroom spaces.

Preparing Students for Bold Futures

UTSA is fortifying its role in preparing career-ready graduates. As part of our Classroom to Career (C2C) initiative, the Najim Strategist program has students work in small groups in partnership with a local business. Combining classroom knowledge with on-the-job learning, the students conduct field research and develop inventive, viable solutions on a challenging project with the business. Last spring, for example, a team of UTSA students worked with a local restaurant to build a social media and marketing plan to support the restaurant’s expansion to a second location. In another C2C effort, the Honors College partnered with the University Career Center to pilot the new Grow with Google HSI Career Readiness Program.

UTSA was one of only 20 Hispanic Serving Institutions chosen to participate in the first cohort of the program that provides workforce-oriented digital skills training and career workshops. Finally, through funding from a Strada Education Network grant, UTSA added a Google certificate in Project Management to select degree programs in COLFA and COEHD to give our students an advantage in their bold future.

Renewing a Cultural Institution

In addition to serving our students and faculty, UTSA is committed to engaging our greater San Antonio community for the benefit of all. As a part of the year-long ITC Centennial 2068 Community Stakeholder Visioning effort, the Steering Committee presented President Eighmy in July with their final report of three conceptual, feasible scenarios for the future of the ITC. The next step, an evaluative phase led by Senior Vice President for Business Affairs Veronica Salazar, launched this month. As part of the ITC 2068 initiative, UTSA added Steve Kosiba, Associate Professor in Anthropology as the ITC faculty liaison, to expand publicly engaged scholarship with faculty, students and the ITC.

One early win is UTSA’s newly awarded grant of $240,443 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services — Museums of America program to preserve and digitize the Institute of Texan Cultures’ Audiovisual Collections. This effort will actively engage Libraries Special Collections staff, and UTSA graduate students and faculty.

The national search for an associate vice provost for public engagement & research/chief curator for the Institute of Texan Cultures, chaired by COLFA Dean Glenn Martínez and Interim Chief Curator Veronica Rodriguez, was launched in May.

Strengthening our Downtown and Connecting with our Community

Construction is now substantially complete on San Pedro I, the new home for the School of Data Science, signaling the next phase in the expansion of the Downtown Campus and UTSA’s investment in our city core. In the coming months, 30 faculty members from across the university will make San Pedro I their home for teaching and research, positioning themselves and their students for collaborations with government, industry and community partners. For the rest of this semester, crews will continue to work on outfitting the building interior so that it is ready to welcome students and the public in January 2023.

Less than a mile north of San Pedro I, please check out UTSA’s newest campus, UTSA Southwest, for the new exhibition by Philadelphia-based artist Kukuli Velarde, Corpus, opening Sept. 9 with a reception and artist talk. UTSA Southwest adds so much to our downtown vibrancy — the picturesque grounds nestled along the Riverwalk provide an opportunity to engage our community partners and to truly immerse our institution in the heart of San Antonio.

The longstanding community arts programs for adults and youth at the UTSA Southwest campus will continue to change lives and expand and enhance the legacy of arts education through collaboration between COLFA and UTSA Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE). PaCE, a unit within the division of Academic Innovation, supports lifelong learning and professional development for students at all stages of their educational journey. The community art classes at the UTSA Southwest Campus join other existing programs supported by PaCE, which include practical business, information technology, paralegal studies, communication and other competencies.

Supporting our Faculty and Staff

Academic Affairs is pleased to sponsor UTSA National Impact Travel Awards, available for tenured/tenure track faculty, full-time fixed-term-track faculty, and academic support division staff. The awards are designed to increase our national impact and bring visibility to our university. This program in Academic Affairs complements that in Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise that supports research travel and dissemination.

As always, I thank you for the work you do every day to prepare our students for success here at UTSA and in charting their bold futures! I welcome your ideas on these and other topics — please feel free to reach out to to share your thoughts.