Faculty and staff have a responsibility to positively shape the lives of students, said President Cynthia Teniente-Matson at the fall convocation Aug. 20 in the Texas A&M University-San Antonio auditorium.
Fall convocation launches the academic year and sets a tone for the whole university. Matson used the event as an opportunity to stress connectedness — whether that means helping students overcome financial struggles, listening to their safety concerns or recognizing the needs of a unique student population.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of this community,” Matson said. “Much is expected of us.”
An audience of 360 faculty and staff members listened to her speech, which focused on the diverse student body and the importance of making A&M-San Antonio a welcoming environment for all.
“Students often tell me that they feel like they belong here. You [the faculty and staff] are making a difference,” Matson said.
This fall A&M-San Antonio is welcoming about 725 students as its largest incoming freshman class to date. This is just one example of the growth the university is experiencing.
A&M-San Antonio is located in the heart of the “education desert in South Bexar County” and serves many students who come from low-income households, Matson said.
According to Matson, 70 percent of A&M-San Antonio attendees are first-generation college students, and 46 percent of them come from families with an adjusted gross income of less than $30,000.
“We understand the impact that poverty has on opportunity and success,” Matson said. “Our students have tremendous financial need.”
To provide more financial opportunity to students, A&M-San Antonio will relaunch the President’s Circle, where patrons can give monetary gifts that help the university achieve its mission.
Matson also addressed the safety concerns of students in an era of increasing violence.
“We are deliberate in our efforts to make students feel safe,” Matson said as she commented on the recent mass shootings that took place in Sutherland Springs and El Paso.
These events impacted many students who will be on campus during the fall semester. Matson encouraged faculty and staff to be willing to talk with students about their social and political concerns.
“Our students are sensitive to this reality, and some are anxious, hurting or fearful,” Matson said.
Matson said the university was scheduled to have a moment of remembrance for those lost in the Sutherland Springs and El Paso shootings following the freshman convocation Aug. 21 in the healing garden behind Patriots’ Casa.
The personal interaction that A&M-San Antonio faculty has with students sets them apart, Matson said.
“Our faculty really tries to understand and connect with the student body,” said Matson in an interview after the event. “I think that makes them a little different than most.”
The faculty at A&M-San Antonio carefully tailor their instruction so it remains topical and aligns with the core values of the university, she said.
“My hope for the faculty this year is that they continue to be sensitive to what is going on in the world around us and that they recognize that students bring their whole selves with them into the classroom,” Matson said.
The convocation also included reports from the Faculty Senate and Staff Council, a 10-year anniversary poem by writer-in-residence Laurie Ann Guerrero and performances by the Reagan High School Choir and the Harlandale Independent School District Mariachi.