State of the University: President says UTSA students must always be priority

Ricardo Romo
Zack Dunn

Top photo: UTSA President Ricardo Romo
Bottom photo: Zack Dunn, president of UTSA Student Government Association
(Photos by Mark McClendon)

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(Sept. 24, 2013) -- UTSA President Ricardo Romo delivered the annual State of the University address at 3 p.m., Tuesday, to an audience of nearly 400 in the University Center Ballroom on the UTSA Main Campus and to an online audience watching a live stream. The central theme was that everything we do at UTSA is for the students and that they must always be the top priority.

>> Watch a video of the 2013 UTSA State of the University address.

Romo discussed the successes of UTSA in the past year and outlined a renewed emphasis on students, who depend upon excellent professors and excellent opportunities for success.

Zack Dunn, president of the UTSA Student Government Association, began by leading the audience in applause to thank Dr. Harriett Romo, UTSA first lady, professor of sociology and director of the Mexico Center, for her service to the university. He then introduced President Romo, describing their first meeting.

Never thinking he would ever meet the president when he came to UTSA, Dunn said he immediately saw that Romo has a way of connecting with students in a genuine manner that is unmatched.

"The first time I met him, I sat next to Dr. Romo at a dinner, and he asked me about where I was from and my interests -- and he never touched his food because he was talking to me," Dunn said. "Meeting Dr. Romo was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life."

Romo began by expressing his gratitude to the supporters of the university, whose gifts are bringing gifted researchers from around the world, talented students and excellence to the UTSA campuses. He said that the support of donors, faculty and staff keep UTSA focused on the journey to Tier One status. He expressed his appreciation for the ongoing success of the university's first capital campaign, which met its $120 million goal a year and a half early and set a new goal of $175 million.

The president highlighted the growth over the last decade in enrollment, building construction and the move last spring of commencement ceremonies to the downtown Alamodome sports complex, noting that the 100,000th graduate is expected to walk the platform in the next year.

"Who would have guessed a few years ago that we would need a space the size of the Alamodome to accommodate our commencement ceremonies?" Romo asked.

Campus development highlights included:

  • A new advising program in which students will work with an advisor from their college for their entire time at UTSA
  • A faculty center in the John Peace Library offering new teaching resources
  • The new San Saba Hall, adding more than 600 beds to on-campus residences, along with mentoring and tutoring centers
  • The new North Paseo Building that will bring staff from the University Heights office park back to campus, saving the university significantly on building costs, and where staff can better interact with the campus community
  • New football practice fields and the opening of the Park West track and soccer complex (where Romo ran with students and children around the new track)
  • The new tradition of the Rowdy roadrunner statue

Romo described student success stories including a student who had 24 family members at his commencement ceremony, a 62-year-old man who had dreamed for 30 years of going to college and succeeded by earning a UTSA degree, a young woman who commuted 162 miles round-trip each day to earn a UTSA teaching degree, and another student who persisted against a language barrier and other challenges to become a UTSA graduate and a bilingual education teacher.

Citing a local 80/20 Foundation study revealing a "brain gain" in San Antonio that matches Austin, Romo said the rise of college graduates coming to the city is an opportunity for UTSA to provide more trained grads for the expanding workforce. To do this, he said, UTSA needs more endowed professorships to help prepare students.

Romo noted that it aids UTSA's journey to Tier One status to be among the top 500 universities in the world by the Shanghai University Rankings of World Universities, measured against more than 1,200 universities in 43 countries. Additionally, UTSA was ranked for the second year as one of the top 100 young universities in the world, among only eight other U.S. universities.

Romo emphasized that a university is Tier One "when we act it, believe it and live it, which UTSA is doing every day."

"Our students deserve the best because they are the best," he said. "Helping to create opportunities for excellence for our students is what being top-tier is all about. So, let's act it, believe it and live it every day for our students."

Audience member Rosalind Horowitz, a professor of discourse and literacy studies in the College of Education and Human Development and a member of the UTSA Research Advisory Board, said, "I liked President Romo's definition of what a Tier One university is and his emphasis on excellence. Many people don't know what Tier One means, and this helps a lot. I appreciated his effort to give us real-life examples of successful students who had several universities they could attend but who chose UTSA. This was very positive and encouraging."