By Rebecca Salinas
UPDATED 02/12/2015: Texas A&M University San Antonio by Board of Regents officially confirmed Cynthia Matson Feb. 12 as the second president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a series chronicling administrative and leadership transitions at A&M-San Antonio.
Just like 75 percent of those enrolled at this university, she was a first-generation college student.
“I very much recognize the strains and the stresses… and from time-to-time, not being sure I was going to make it,” she said in a telephone interview Dec. 8 from Fresno, Calif. “That’s what I remember as a student, and that’s what I see with the students that I am with and around now.”
Now, the student that changed her major “a couple of times,” will become the second president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
President Maria Hernandez Ferrier’s successor was named Dec. 6 by the Texas A&M University System and will begin her position Jan. 12.
The Board of Regents will vote to approve Teniente-Matson as president during a February 2015 meeting.
Ferrier, who steps down Dec. 31, will begin her position as director of development and Mexico relations within the A&M System.
Teniente-Matson, 50, vice president for administration and chief financial officer of California State University Fresno since 2004, has pursued positions of increasing responsibility in higher education business and finance in California and Alaska for more than 20 years.
She held several administrative positions at the University of Alaska Anchorage since 1993, where she first served as acting director of purchasing then advanced to vice chancellor of administrative services at the multi-site university.
At Fresno State, she oversaw departments of facilities and capital management, human resources, technology services and university police. University initiatives include organizing “hot topic” open forums for students, implementing a financial literacy program for students, remodeling the university’s library, fundraising for a construction campaign and co-founding the Women’s Campus Connection.
Teniente-Matson chairs the Fresno State Association Corporation, overseeing a budget of $32.8 million allocated to campus services and public-private developments; and the Fresno State Athletic Corporation, which has a budget of $28 million, according to her curriculum vitae.
Leaving a university with over 50 buildings, she will adjust to this university’s 4,500 commuter student population on a main campus of three buildings.
But the campuses share parallels. Fresno State is 40 percent Hispanic, and two-thirds of the student body qualify for federal financial aid.
Enrollment at Fresno State, currently just above 23,000, grew 17 percent over the decade she was a financial administrator.
She said her immediate goal at A&M-San Antonio includes downward expansion to reach a targeted growth of 25,000 students in 10 years.
But first, she plans on meeting with students and employees, and members of the community to “really tell our story.”
By working with the community, along with her experience with real estate and human resources, she said she understands “the various contributions of a shared governance model” that will make her “a great leader for Texas A&M-San Antonio.”
Meanwhile, university administration and planners continue to revise a campus masterplan.
As enrollment exceeds 10,000 students at this university, construction will begin on the next stage of development, according to the university website.
This phase will include a stand-alone library, student center and residential facilities. Planning documents indicate the campus will include nine academic buildings when enrollment surpasses 25,000.
Although Teniente-Matson has yet to visit the campus, she envisions rapid growth for the university.
Growing up just minutes from campus, she said she wanted to return because of a special bond she has to her hometown.
“I just really felt inspired and emotionally connected to the mission and to the place,” she said when she learned more about the job. “I have a lot of tios and tias in that area, and generations of cousins.”
She left with her family at the age of 8 years old to southern California, and then to Alaska, where she attended college.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1989, and then earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1998.
In conjunction with working her current job, she graduated with a doctoral degree in educational leadership from California State University Fresno in 2013.
She found her passion for business during a “process of discovery” that every student endures, she said.
That “discovery” has led her to many administrative positions throughout her 25-year career.
“Like all students, when you’re trying to figure out what you want your major to be, and when you fall into something or you find something that you enjoy and it ignites you, it lets you know that you’re making the right decision,” she said, relating to her experience searching for the right major.
Students said they hope the interim president can initiate changes in class time offerings, additional professors and schedule flexibility.
“I have to transfer to another university, because we don’t have very many professors with my schedule,” biology junior Candice Stetler said. “I hope the new president continues to let A&M-San Antonio grow.”
Gloria Petit contributed to this report.