Current UTSA students, faculty, staff and visitors are witnesses to one of the most dramatic periods of upheaval and growth in the university’s short history. The changes seem to alternate between being exciting and frustrating: new green spaces begin with parking lots closed for construction, while a heightened sense of school spirit is tempered by increased tuition and fees.
New building projects are everywhere. Administrators, staff, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets and the Writing Program faculty moved into the recently completed North Paseo Building (NPB) last Fall. In the same vein, students have been taking advantage of the JPL’s renovated and expanded computer lab. A bookless, digital library is now serving researchers and students in the Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) Building, the first library of its kind in the nation. Even those sleepwalking to class this semester have surely noticed the concrete pillars next to the Walter Brenan Av., soon to be 600-bed San Saba Hall, or the construction north of the Main Building, the Bauerle Garage, which will hold 1200 new parking spots.
Other changes are less visible but still have a forceful impact on UTSA’s future. In five years, the university’s annual research expenditures have nearly doubled from $32 million to $56 million. Admissions standards have improved, with 53 percent of incoming freshmen having graduated in the top quarter of their high-school class. A few minutes from campus, on Hausman Road, UTSA broke ground this month on its new multi-million dollar Park West athletics complex.
With this complicated web of projects and initiatives underway simultaneously, UTSA can’t afford to proceed without a sense of direction. The university relies on two roadmaps: “UTSA Master Plan,” published in 2009, which establishes its physical growth. Administrators use both of these documents together to direct the university’s development for the foreseeable future.
THE MASTER PLAN
The UTSA Master Plan embodies the university’s structural future. First unveiled in 2009, it guides the architectural future of UTSA’s three campuses (Main, Downtown and Institute of Texan Cultures) plus the Park West athletics complex.
The Master Plan lays out Main Campus’ development from 2009-2038, within four phases of construction. Each phase adds new buildings, infrastructure and renovations based on UTSA’s projected needs at each point in the future. With Main Campus currently under Phase 1, the plan is still in its infancy and just recently gaining speed.
Of the five new buildings proposed for Phase 1, two-San Saba Hall and the North Paseo Building -are on campus in some form (Bauerle Garage and the north roundabout, under construction, were originally slated for Phase 3). The Master Plan does offer some flexibility based on unforeseen needs; the garage plans were moved forward to help alleviate UTSA’s parking crunch.
A five-story administrative building next to the North Paseo Building was also originally a Phase 3 structure, but is already in the planning stages. The accelerated schedule is intended, in part, to free up valuable classroom space from the campus core.
The last three buildings in Phase 1 are by far the largest and most important. Arranged around a proposed green space south of the Convocation Center, the buildings will form the nucleus of a campus quad and the new face of UTSA. The three were scheduled for completion in approximately 2014, although that time-frame might not be met. Regardless, these final Phase 1 buildings are near the top of the list and will drastically alter the look of south campus when they are built.
Graduating students who return in 10 years should find three new dorms next to the upcoming San Saba Hall, Convocation Center and Rec Center expansions, a University Center IV and three new, unspecified buildings next to the Biosciences and Engineering Bldg. Roads will be straightened, pathways landscaped and a new campus entrance will greet visitors entering from UTSA Blvd.
THE STRATEGIC PLAN
The university’s strategic plan, UTSA 2016, was designed five years ago by President Ricardo Romo and other key members of the community. It aims to provide a framework by which the university can measure its scholastic achievement. Even though some of the goals are considered somewhat vague, the plan is full of critical information, with metrics for progress and eventual success.
Since UTSA 2016 was intended to cover 2007-2016, this year marks a convenient halfway point to assess some of the goals. The plan focuses on three umbrella concepts: diversity, globalization and transformative leadership.
A key goal towards diversity is to get UTSA’s racial demographics to mirror those of the surrounding area. The university is already close to this goal; UTSA students and Bexar County residents are both primarily Hispanic (45 percent and 59 percent respectively). White individuals (31 percent / 30 percent) and black individuals (9 percent / 8 percent) make up the next two largest categories at both UTSA and Bexar County. Advancing towards diversity, UTSA will likely aim to increase the number of Hispanic students, among other measures.
Globalization has long been an effect of UTSA’s various initiatives, but UTSA 2016 focuses and redoubles the existing efforts. International students already make up a relatively large portion of the student body at 4.9 percent. UTSA will likely work towards signing more initiatives with countries and institutions around the world, such as the educational partnership signed with the country of Malawi last year, which aims to foster literacy in the southeastern African country. UTSA also participates in
student exchange programs with universities in England, Italy, Germany and Japan amongst others.
The goal of transformative leadership is multifaceted, but UTSA has been making good headway in some areas. When UTSA 2016 was launched in 2007, the university had 450 doctoral students. The strategic plan set a goal of 900 doctoral students annually by 2016. UTSA is over halfway there, with 716 students enrolled in Fall 2011.
Transformative leadership also involves providing students with the best educational experience possible to give them the tools to lead. One of these tools is the Student Leadership Center, located in the UC, which enables and facilitates leadership roles within the community.
Based on current and projected enrollment, UTSA will need vast amounts of new academic and living spaces. UTSA has been constructing new buildings consistently, but it operates at such a space deficit that it may take several years to catch up to an acceptable amount of space per student. New buildings such as the NPB, the AET and the proposed administrative building have alleviated the issue somewhat, but construction will need to continue at an advanced rate.
PRICE TO PAY
To keep up with the frenetic construction pace. without disrupting current students, is unavoidable. The new Bauerle Garage, the roundabout and its accompanying green space, have already caused some controversy by forcing the closure of Peace Lot (formerly Parking Lot 3). Senior mathematics major Frank Salinas, however, doesn’t seem to mind losing Peace Lot to gain Bauerle Garage. “That’s just part of the growing pains for UTSA. We (students) have to give parking to get parking.”
In fact, the parking switch hints at an overall goal of the Master Plan, which is to eventually remove all surface lots and replace them with garages. The gambit the plans’ creators and administrators bet on was that commuters would tolerate parking lot disruptions here and there to reap the benefits of the garages: a greener, denser, more beautiful campus.