Giving News

Editorial: UTSA Moves Toward Tier One

New focus on faculty researcher hires brings the university closer to its Tier One goal

Top Scholar for UTSA's Cyber Security

Student Eric Ficke joins UTSA's top-ranked cyber security program.

Microsoft Invests in UTSA

Microsoft and UTSA announce $1 million gift to support university's research and technology programs.


More Latest


Nate Leonard

a football dream come true

“I may not be the biggest, fastest, strongest guy out there, but I don’t let that stop me from pursuing excellence.” Nate Leonard, center for the UTSA Football team, has proven to be a leader both on and off the field.

“Coach Coker saw the vision of what I could become. And I saw what UTSA was working to become,” Nate shares as he reflects on the road that led him to the UTSA Football program. With a dream to play for a Division I team, he was told time and time again that he was not tall enough but he persevered when he impressed UTSA coaches and was offered a full scholarship.

“I am so grateful for the support the team receives. Allowing us the opportunity to extend our vision and our life goals—the impact is immeasurable. I hope the donors understand how much their gifts have made a difference for my teammates and me,” he says.

Ishmael Mendez

high school salutatorian says
attending UTSA means opportunities

For Ishmael Mendez, choosing a college was a difficult decision. His parents wanted him to go to a school close to home in the Rio Grande Valley and offered to help him financially to do so; but he longed for a top-tier university experience in a bigger city where he could take advantage of an abundance of opportunities. He decided if he got a coveted scholarship from the Terry Foundation of Houston – covering most tuition and fee expenses every year – that he would leave the comfort of home to attend UTSA.

"I got the scholarship and now I am on my way to a degree in mathematics as an Honors College student," says Ishmael. He hopes to become a school principal and then a district superintendent so he can encourage other Texas students to dream big. It hasn't been easy – he works two jobs while attending school full-time – yet he doesn't regret his choice of UTSA. "UTSA and San Antonio are amazing. I like living here on my own, and I feel like I am getting the education and opportunities that will help me achieve my goals."

Jessica Felhofer

scholarships makes possible for amazing opportunities

Jessica Felhofer is helping build a chemical analysis "lab" the size of a microchip that will be accessible anywhere. The potential uses for the chip are limitless; instead of collecting samples and sending them out to be analyzed, results will be available immediately. Imagine the impact for a military medic on the front lines monitoring patient health or for scientists trying to understand the effect of an emerging environmental crisis.

Scholarships have made it possible for Jessica to pursue her education at UTSA. A graduate of O'Connor High School in San Antonio, she came to the university as an undergraduate student and is now working on her Ph.D. in chemistry with support from the Presidential Scholarship fund.

She says, "At one point I held three jobs while working my way through school. Scholarship assistance has made so many opportunities available to me, and I am grateful."

Krystal Nicholson

proud Roadrunner succeeds with scholarships

Future teacher Krystal Nicholson loves to boast about UTSA. "If you are looking for a university with proud students and the leaders of tomorrow, then come to UTSA," she says. Her Roadrunner enthusiasm, along with a great deal of involvement on campus, led to her election as Ms. UTSA by her peers.

But getting here wasn't always easy. "My mom lost her job, so I had to try any possible way to get money to come here. My freshman year was such a struggle, but it only made me stronger. It made me look for other ways to get money for my education," she says. Scholarship support has eased the burden and allowed her to focus on school.

She is proud that UTSA is pursuing top-tier opportunities. "I feel that UTSA going toward Tier One makes me more confident. If I have to go head-to-head with someone from Texas A&M for a job, I'm not going to be nervous. … We're going to be on the same level."

Doug Frantz

working to develop therapeutic solutions
for a variety of diseases

Doug Frantz is working to grow new heart muscle cells and turn cancerous cells benign. His lab is developing drug-like molecules that target stem cells to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer. Support from the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund is helping Frantz treat these diseases and is bringing other top researchers to UTSA.

"The research we are conducting in the laboratory is aligned with the broader issues of treating cardiovascular disease and cancer by combining stem cells and medicinal chemistry," said Frantz. "In addition to advancing our research, gifts from donors and organizations provide undergraduates and graduate students with opportunities to gain valuable laboratory experience at the interface of chemistry and biology and contribute to the development of therapeutic solutions for a variety of diseases."

Johnelle Sparks

improving health for rural communities inspires learning

Johnelle Sparks, assistant professor in the Department of Demography and Organization Studies, is conducting research to save the lives of infants in rural Texas and beyond. “The whole point of my research is to help people who may not know how to help themselves,” she says. Sparks uses demography to identify risk factors that cause low birth weight variations among racial and ethnic groups. Finding answers to the health disparity will result in better prevention efforts.

Her passion to seek answers has ignited research interest among her students. She encourages them to publish their findings and promotes their participation at professional conferences. “It is wonderful to share my educational journey with Dr. Sparks,” says Mary Bollinger Ph.D. ’10, a UTSA alumna who published with Sparks. “Because of her passion for demography and teaching, her dedication to her students and her overall commitment to excellence in scholarship, I am inspired.”

Give now to support faculty like Sparks who continue to seek answers through research.

Mansour El-Kikhia

making history in Libya

When Jon Stewart wanted to know for the The Daily Show how to topple a dictatorship, he called Mansour El-Kikhia to give the lesson. The professor of political science and geography at UTSA appeared on the show to talk about the rebellion in Libya to force Muammar Gadhafi out of power. Exiled from Libya for speaking against the government, El-Kikhia also shared his knowledge on CNN, returning to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, his hometown, after 30 years to advise opposition rebels.

With the dictator removed, El-Kikhia is now active in Libya's transformation. He continues to advise his home country by working with leaders in the transitional government to set up elections. "I am grateful to the United States for giving me the opportunity to become an American and live here and learn from it … and I learned what freedom actually means, and how it's important to set up a system that guarantees freedoms and rights of people of all types and shapes and colors," he said during a recent interview.

Learning from those who have lived history and engaged in the formation of governments is the kind of top-tier opportunity that makes UTSA special.

Mauli Agrawal

biomedical 'rock star' leads engineering

Mauli Agrawal has been called a rock star in the field of biomedical engineering because his vision is changing the possibilities for amputees. His specialty is orthopedic and cardiovascular biomaterials and implants, with a primary interest in tissue engineering and regeneration. His work will alter the course of treatment for those with tissue wounds and amputations.

At UTSA, he holds the David and Jennifer Spencer Distinguished Chair for the Dean of Engineering and serves as director of the university's Institute for Bioengineering and Translational Research. "Through their vision and their generous gift, David and Jennifer Spencer have empowered the College of Engineering to rise to new heights of excellence in quality, education and research," he says.

Agrawal has used funding from the endowment to support a student ambassador program, provide start-up research funding for new faculty, and reward faculty and staff excellence, to name a few examples. He also has used the endowment to partially fund the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE), a partnership with UTSA's College of Business to foster the growth of new technology-based ventures in the community.

Endowment support allows highly regarded experts like Agrawal the opportunity to turn their passions into living classrooms for students. Endowed chairs, professorships and other faculty support help UTSA attract and retain leading researchers that will share their knowledge to benefit San Antonio and Texas.

Jo Ann Andera

as both beneficiary and benefactor appreciates the power of philanthropy

The Institute of Texan Cultures’ Jo Ann Andera, director of the Texas Folklife Festival, wasn’t around for the first festival some 40 years ago, but she certainly knows how important private donations were then—and now.

“The first festival in 1972 had support from some foundations, and ever since then we’ve been generating our own income. Without the help we receive from our corporate, foundation and individual sponsors and partners, there probably wouldn’t be a Texas Folklife Festival. We certainly couldn’t provide some of the programs and underwrite some of the educational projects we do without private funds.”

While Andera spends much of her time building relationships that benefit the Institute of Texan Cultures and translate into Texas Folklife Festival sponsorships, she’s also helping to “sponsor” some university programs through her own philanthropy.

A generous donor to several scholarship funds, Roadrunner Athletics and, of course, the Friends of the TFF, Andera said that she gives back to UTSA “because I think education is the single most important part of a person’s life.”

“It is really rewarding,” she says, “to have the ability to help provide scholarships to students who are wanting to get an education, who see the value and importance of an education, who develop a well-rounded perspective and then go out into the real world and rely on what they’ve learned.”

Bob McKinley

impacting small businesses in South Texas and beyond

Bob McKinley is UTSA's expert in economic and business development. He heads the Institute for Economic Development that provides 37,000 business clients with consulting and research services each year. Its programs extend UTSA's presence throughout the entire Southwest Texas border region and beyond, in the United States and Mexico.

McKinley has always been committed to service. He worked as a community organizer among rural Mayan ejidos in Yucatan and was executive director of the Hispanic Chamber in Fort Worth. In 1990, he joined UTSA to lead the Small Business Development Center and then moved to the institute, a center of excellence for UTSA that achieved a nationwide No. 1 ranking in 2010 for its minority business enterprise center.

"Small businesses are leading the turnaround for the economy, and UTSA is doing its part to help them grow and prosper," McKinley says. "As one of the top-tier economic development organizations in the country, we are proud to be a key component of UTSA's Tier One mission of serving the public through community engagement."

Harriett Romo

expanding cultural understanding
to grow opportunities for San Antonio

The UTSA Mexico Center and the Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) are two programs under the Office of Community Service that focus on the future of our region. Both are under the direction of Harriett Romo, professor of sociology.

The Mexico Center, established in 2005, focuses on UTSA's relationship with Mexico to promote interdisciplinary collaboration for research and service projects. Immigration, U.S./Mexico border issues, transnational living and policy development are some of the topics the center is helping to research and address. "The University of Texas at San Antonio is a gateway to South Texas and to Mexico," says Romo. "More than 40 percent of our nearly 31,000 students are Hispanic, and our faculty has a wide range of expertise on Mexico-related topics."

The Child and Adolescent and Policy Research Institute, founded by Romo in 2004, develops research projects and educational programs that assist children and adolescents from low-income families so they can be prepared for school and reach their full potential. Thanks to a $1 million contribution from the Bank of America Foundation, CAPRI also helps support students majoring in child development studies with thousands of dollars in endowed scholarships.

UTSA programs like the UTSA Mexico Center and the Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute address key needs for the well-being of our region through research and outreach. Philanthropic investment ensures such services and knowledge is available here, impacting our students, our community and our future.

Les Shephard

world-renowned expert in energy

Les Shephard, a world-renowned expert in energy and water issues, has come to UTSA to help solve the world's most pressing energy issues.

Dr. Shephard is director of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA. He inspires and leads research on alternative energy sources, while exploring best practices for the energy industry. Shephard's work has resulted in a game-changing $50 million partnership between San Antonio's utility, CPS Energy, and the university.

It is an endowed chair, a gift from USAA, that helped the university recruit such a respected, cutting-edge researcher to San Antonio. As the USAA Robert F. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering, he is leading the charge, pairing his expertise in energy with his passion for the resources of Texas. With Shephard and additional private support, the institute will create new knowledge that ensures San Antonio is a national leader in energy solutions, creating exceptional and sustainable energy opportunities for our state that will benefit generations to come.

Misty Sailors

expanding UTSA's global impact to Africa

Sixty children in a classroom, eager to learn. If they have to share books, they don't complain.

This is what Misty Sailors saw children having to endure in parts of South Africa. So she began the Ithuba Writing Project in 2005, which uses resources from UTSA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other sources to create books in the home languages of South African children in and impoverished classrooms. More than 100 original storybooks are now used as the basis for lessons in language, math and natural sciences.

"There is almost a hunger for our work. Namibia wants our books. Liberia wants our books. Uganda is interested in working with us. We've talked to some people in Ethiopia who do book-based learning. And in Tanzania," Sailors says.

Endowment support allows faculty such as Sailors the opportunity to turn their passions into opportunities for service-learning, teaching our students from global perspectives. Endowed chairs, and other support helps UTSA attract and retain leaders who are creating new knowledge to build a better world.

Annie Moras

marching into history as a UTSA drum major

If being a member of the marching band takes commitment and talent, then being a drum major for a brand new marching band in Texas takes passion and drive to the next level. Annie Moras has both, and she is making history as one of the leaders of the new Roadrunner marching band with scholarship support from unrestricted gifts to the university.

"It is so exciting to have this opportunity to be part of UTSA's first marching band," she says. "Being selected as one of the first drum majors is really an honor."

Annie and her fellow band members spent countless hours rehearsing for the first Roadrunner Football season to make the Spirit of San Antonio not only a great representation of UTSA, but also a point of pride for the city. Scholarship support is making it possible for Annie to focus on her dreams of making great marching music while studying to become a music teacher. "Scholarships and other donations for the band are really important as we start this new program. I am grateful to the donors who are helping us make history."

Aracely Rodriguez

students helping students

Aracely Rodriguez, an undergraduate from Pharr, Texas, is not your typical librarian. As a student, she is reaching out to others and helping them use the library to its fullest extent. “To support students today, there are so many technologies available here, and it can be a challenge to navigate,” she says.

As part of the library Peer Coaches Program, Aracely is learning information literacy and research skills, partnering with librarian mentors and working in the library as a frontline resource for her peers. “I really enjoy helping. Seeing other students benefit from my help gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

A generous gift from the Hearst Foundation has made the program possible. Such support is vital to ensure our students and faculty are prepared to learn and study in our technologically advanced world.

Larry Coker

campus life grows and thrives with UTSA Football

Larry Coker's arrival on campus in March 2009 as the first Roadrunner Football coach was a fantastic moment for UTSA. With a national championship at Miami and two National Coach of the Year honors under his belt, Coker brings the skills and experience to forge a winning football program.

Football means new traditions on campus, energized alumni and a welcome national spotlight on all of UTSA.

Cathy '11 and Jim Bodenstedt '96 were among the first to recognize the doors football will open, and their $1 million investment funds scholarships for football student-athletes. As Jim has said, football "is an important milestone in UTSA's journey to being a Tier One university."

But the benefit is not limited to UTSA. The entire San Antonio community enjoys increased tourism, pride in our city and the excitement of big-time college sports. Football has ushered in an exhilarating era for UTSA, San Antonio and Texas, and it is private support, like the gifts provided by donors like the Bodenstedts, that makes such enriching experiences available here.

Rod Sachs

inspired through study abroad to change the world

Rod Sachs is a nontraditional student who is using his life experiences to help others. He came to UTSA to pursue a bachelor's degree after attending Northwest Vista College. A member of the Honors College, studying abroad was an opportunity to take his learning to the next level through intense reflection and to gain experience in another culture.

In the Netherlands, he explored his passion for history while studying at The Roosevelt Academy in Middleburg. There he learned about the impact of the Holocaust, slavery and other systemic forms of discrimination. He returned to UTSA inspired to consider how he might be able to change thinking around the world by working with those who enjoy and celebrate human diversity.

Scholarships made it possible for Rod to study abroad and to take advantage of other exceptional opportunities at UTSA. He says, "Please know that the availability of scholarships make college possible for those of us who are living on limited funds. The service you provide with your sacrificial gift is a blessing that will continue to bear fruit."