2 min read January 2022 — The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is the largest university in the San Antonio metropolitan region with four campuses across the city. In an interview with Invest:, President Taylor Eighmy discussed the impact of the pandemic, ensuring equity in San Antonio and its educational institutions, key partnerships, strategic initiatives and his outlook for UTSA in San Antonio, the country’s seventh-largest city.
Where does UTSA stand from the viewpoint of enrollment given the pandemic?
We have not seen a drop in enrollment. In fact, we’ve been fortunate enough to have thrived. Our enrollment in September 2020 went up 7% despite the pandemic. This fall, we welcomed a record freshman class of 5,500 new students. We believe it was a combination of things, such as the way we were offering our courses, working with our students to support them, and working with our faculty and staff to support our ability to deliver. We had the right blend of balancing public health protections and virtual learning opportunities. Our enrollment speaks volumes to the trust our students have in us and to their satisfaction.
How has the pandemic reshaped the learning preferences of students?
Some students live at home with family and may have risk conditions related to the COVID-19 virus. They were very concerned about protections in place on campus. Much of that concern remains to this day. We have another population of students who struggled with the online version of learning and wanted to get back to in-person, experiential learning. They missed the traditional college experience of living in residence halls with friends and attending campus events. In March 2021, in preparation of offering classes for the fall, we did a very large student survey around the modalities for offering our classes. The students voted resoundingly that they wanted flexibility in the academic programs and registered for courses that allowed the most flexibility. We’ve actually seen a selection of classes that allow the students to be in person or virtual as desired.
In what ways is UTSA promoting equity?
We are reinventing our core curriculum to address equity. This intentional process has been underway since the beginning of 2020. As a large public research university, we felt there was a lull here in San Antonio and Texas on the equity front, and we’re striving to lead by example. We’ve been focused on increasing the diversity of our administration, faculty and staff as well as our student body. At the heart and soul of this issue, we are an educational institution, and if we can imbue these concepts around equity and equity advocacy in our core curriculum then we are also ensuring that every student entering UTSA has a chance to learn and understand this matter. We are not only leading by example but also teaching this directly to our students. In recognition of our efforts to become an institution where Latino students thrive, we received the prestigious Seal of Excelencia, which is a testament to the hard work and advocacy of so many in our Roadrunner community.
How is UTSA contributing to a path of robust, responsible economic growth for San Antonio?
Texas is the ninth-largest economy globally, and San Antonio is the third largest city in Texas. If you look at where our city is going, it wants to be an agent for prosperity and equity while still embracing this very important concept of connection and compassion. We are very thoughtfully cultivating our economy here in San Antonio and Texas. On the human talent side, we and all other higher education institutions in this region want to graduate young people who are prepared to thrive in the workforce and in life. Of course, we are also focused on the economic development side of things and attracting companies to stay in, grow in or come to San Antonio to produce the jobs our young people need. Our greatest challenge is advancing the production of workforce talent and creating an economy that fosters job growth, allowing our young people to remain and thrive within the region. This is all part of the grand approach to appropriately growing San Antonio in a way that allows all parts of our community to thrive. Education plays a critical role in that approach. We’re all born with the same potential but are not afforded the same opportunities. Education addresses that inequity – it is the greatest equalizer there is. The local business community is united on our path, and there’s an exciting, harmonious convergence taking place.
What is the anticipated impact of the National Security Collaboration Center (NSCC)?
The NSCC was created to address pressing challenges surrounding cybersecurity. Working with federal entities, industry leaders and academia, we are advancing research, education and workforce development, specifically in the areas of cybersecurity, data analytics and cloud computing. In 2022, it is estimated that there will be a shortage of 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals. As the nation’s seventh-largest city and the second-largest cybersecurity hub, we will play a critical role in closing this gap. UTSA is the undisputed leader in cybersecurity education with over 4,000 graduate and undergraduate students studying in our cybersecurity, technology and computation programs. At the same time, our university is the only Hispanic Serving Institution in the U.S. to hold three National Center of Excellence designations from the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Training this diverse pipeline of talent for the workforce is vitally important for the industry and for our community.
What will the School of Data Science contribute to the region?
The launch of our School of Data Science is in response to the national call for a highly skilled workforce to fill growing needs in cybersecurity, data analytics, business intelligence and digital asset management. San Antonio’s Tech Corridor will benefit immensely from the increased flow and quality of talent which we are able to provide the region, especially as we expect our enrollment in our cybersecurity, technology and computation programs to double over the coming 10 years. The School of Data Science will further reaffirm San Antonio’s status as the largest information security hub outside of Washington, D.C.
What is the significance of the San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics to the region?
The San Antonio Partnership for Precision Therapeutics is a billion-dollar partnership between The University of Texas at San Antonio, UT Health San Antonio, Texas Biomedical Research Institute and Southwest Research Institute that serves to accelerate the delivery of life-saving treatment options. This partnership highlights San Antonio as a global epicenter for precision therapeutics while also helping to improve the quality of health outcomes locally and serving as a driver for the economy. Throughout the pandemic, all four institutions have been determined to address new challenges, including vaccine development and antiviral therapy. San Antonio is one of the biggest cities in the United States but it’s also one of the biggest villages. Everybody works with everybody and we remain collaborative and engaged even during times of crisis.
What is your outlook for the university?
We are rapidly maturing as a discovery enterprise that is at the forefront of knowledge creation. The ingredients we have here are wonderful, the opportunities ahead of us are special and we are on an upward trajectory of becoming a 45,000-student, research-intensive university with superb educational outcomes. At the same time, we’re looking forward to tackling all of the grand challenges that we face as a community, as a society and as a nation—striving to make the world a better place.
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