It’s no secret that Texas’s population is growing rapidly, and getting more diverse with every passing year. At the forefront of this tidal demographic shift are Latinos, a group that has — in Texas alone — grown by over 2 million since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Latinos in Texas are also a relatively young population. With a median age of just 29, many are just starting their educational and career journeys. Together, the growth and youth of our Latino population presents unprecedented competitive advantages for Texas.
Higher education institutions like The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) are at the forefront of educating these students to fill our state’s critical workforce needs by implementing innovative programs meant to cultivate Latino student success and leadership.
Investing in Latino student success is at the core of UTSA’s identity as San Antonio’s largest university and its aim to be a model “Hispanic Thriving” institution where Latino students can excel and lead. In October 2020, UTSA received the Seal of Excelencia — one of only 14 institutions in the nation to earn that recognition — that speaks to its ability to demonstrate positive outcomes for Latino students.
“Through data, practice and leadership, UTSA has embraced its important mission as a Hispanic Serving Institution and it continues—even during these challenging times—to actively build pathways for equity for its students, its community and our country.”
— Sarita Brown, Excelencia in Education’s president
UTSA’s commitment to improving Latino education and workforce training can be seen in the variety of pathways created to advance Latino equity and success.
UTSA’s “Classroom to Career” initiative is one such example. With an emphasis on career-engaged learning and hands-on experiences, the initiative’s goal for 75% of undergraduate students to participate in some form of experiential learning — such as internships, service & research opportunities and studying abroad — prior to graduation. This program is directly affecting workforce development in Texas by building new education-to-career pipelines for UTSA’s predominantly Latino student population.
Another program of note is UTSA’s “First to Go and Graduate” initiative. This nationally-recognized program supports first-generation college students through peer mentorship, personal coaching and community building as they work towards their degree goals. With hundreds of Latino students served to date, First to Go and Graduate has a proven history of fostering success in future leaders.
“Not only are our students completing their degrees at a faster pace than ever before, they’re also earning degrees in higher numbers. We’ve seen a 42% increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Latino students over the last five years,” said Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy, UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “At the same time, our Latino undergraduate enrollment increased by 25%, and the percentage of Latino students graduating with debt decreased by 6%. These numbers tell a striking story about UTSA’s commitment to Latino student success.”
Ultimately, cultivating the next generation of leaders is at the heart of the UTSA experience, and many UTSA alumni go on to careers where they can have a real impact on their communities.
One such alumnus is Ramiro Gonzales, Class of 2010, president and CEO at the Westside Development Corp., who is working to change the trajectory of San Antonio’s West Side through economic development efforts. Helping to lay the groundwork for a community’s economic stability during a pandemic is one of many challenges Gonzales can face thanks to the skills gained through his time at UTSA.
At the national level, a growing number of Roadrunners can be found in prominent roles helping to shape federal policies and engagement including three UTSA graduates recently appointed to positions in the White House: Senior Legislative Affairs Advisor Christopher Garcia, Director of Political Strategy & Outreach Emmy Ruiz, and Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement Adrian Saenz.
With these and many other Roadrunners coming into their careers, universities like UTSA are on track to continue to produce the leaders our communities, state and country need.