As Texas A&M University-San Antonio celebrates its 15th year as a standalone institution, senior leaders reflected on the school’s achievements and revealed goals of expansion and improvement during convocation Aug. 24.
New president ‘impressed’ with university growth
“When I’ve looked at what happened this past year, I’m very very impressed with what I see,” Salvador Hector Ochoa said during his speech at the assembly in the auditorium. “I’d like to highlight a few things to acknowledge the good work that has been done here before I came.”
Ochoa, who stepped into the leadership role Aug. 2, celebrated that A&M-San Antonio is the fastest-growing university in the A&M System; the launch of La Familia, a parent program that has awarded $150,000 in scholarships to ASPIRE students; prestigious business and counseling accreditations earned by the university this year; 100% increased external grant funding since fall 2022 ($13.9 million); the launch of San Antonio Ready-to-Work program; the General’s Store, a food pantry for students; and the athletic accomplishments made by different sports groups on campus.
Future includes new buildings and support for student parents
Continuing the convocation’s theme of expansion and improvement, Ochoa announced that the 2023-2024 school year would see the start of planning for new student housing and a daycare program and building that would serve as child care for student parents and experiential learning for education and child development majors. The university also will break ground in the spring for a new public health and education building.
“If this doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will because it really motivates me,” Ochoa said. “Bottom line, I believe in the unfilled potential of this university and our students.”
This year was also the first time a student representative was invited to speak at the staff and faculty convocation. Deane Gumila, Student Government Association president, said under her leadership SGA worked with staff and faculty to expand services for Jaguars who are attending school with “cubs.”
“Additionally, we are working toward providing more financial support for our students,” Gumila said. “Whether that is expanding our dining options, our transportation services and also making it known that SGA is a place for all of our students to be heard and supported regardless of who they may be.”
Faculty Senate President Leonard Love commended the complete change of senior leadership in the administration, and emphasized the importance of shared governance between the faculty and the administration. Love shone a light on Chief Financial Officer Leonard Cullo, who stepped into the role in February and provost Mohamed Abdelrahman who has been with the university for a year.
“We have leadership we can work with, that we trust and that will cooperate with us for the betterment of this university,” Love said. “There’s a transparency there that wasn’t quite there before.”
As faculty senate president, Love said he wants to continue working with the university’s information technology systems to improve learning systems like Blackboard. Love said he’s also working on reorganizing and cutting back on committees in the senate and on improving faculty parking.
Love endorsed Ochoa during his speech.
“I was on the search committee, and I can tell you he was the No. 1 choice of more people on the search committee than anyone else by a significant margin,” Love said. “And so far he’s not failed to live up to that.
University efforts to value staff and faculty after losing 21% of A&M-San Antonio community last year
During convocation Abdelrahman presented 25 promotions and tenure to faculty members across the colleges of arts and sciences, business and education and human development.
“To me the faculty are the soul of the institution,” Abdelrahman said. “They serve the main functions of an academic institution: they educate, they create knowledge, and they serve the university, the community and the profession.”
While Ochoa celebrated that enrollment increased 5% from the 2022-2024 academic school year, he also noted that the university experienced a 21% loss of faculty and staff last year.
“We need to stop that,” Ochoa said. “We need to make sure that you’re valued.”
Ochoa also plans to learn more about the A&M-San Antonio community by holding “listening sessions” with every college, department and administrative office on campus. Ochoa said he also wants to talk to students and establish a learning team.
“I need to understand what those pressure points are. What are your frustrations? What are your needs?” Ochoa said during his speech. “I’m not gonna come with preconceived ideas. I need to learn and listen.”