COLFA dean candidate open forums continue with Dr. Jason Yaeger


Xavier Richardson, Assistant Opinion Editor

Open forums for the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) dean finalist candidates continued on Jan. 27. Dr. Jason Yaeger, associate dean of COLFA graduate studies and professor of anthropology at UTSA, spoke about how his current role and past experiences at UTSA would make him a good fit for the dean position.

Yaeger first addressed his move from the University of Wisconsin to UTSA in 2009, when he became a faculty member. He explained key differences between the two universities.

“At Wisconsin, people might ask you what classes you were teaching, but we never talked about the instruction. We didn’t talk about student success, we didn’t talk about techniques we could employ in the classroom,” Yaeger said. “So when I arrived at the Department of Anthropology … we talked about not just about what we were teaching, but how to teach and there were a bunch of workshops … and there was a commitment to student learning … that wasn’t very forefronted at Wisconsin. The diverse student body was also different and exciting. Wisconsin is a very white campus, so looking out into my classroom and seeing students who look like San Antonio, students that look like the future of America, was fulfilling.”

In relation to the diversity of UTSA’s student body, Yaeger referenced the university’s status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

“I think an important part of COLFA’s success in the university’s future success relies on, is founded on our status as an HSI, and I think we should become a national leader in the Latinx ecosystem,” Yaeger said. “Latinx higher educational attainment is really low … and if we aspire to be a just and equitable society, this is something we need to address and overcome and identify the obstacles that lie behind these statistics and begin changing them one student at a time.”

Yaeger later spoke about the university’s role in community engagement, specifically mentioning the Westside Community Partnerships Initiative, a program outlined in UTSA’s 10-year master plan that focuses on providing support to underrepresented minority members in San Antonio’s Westside.

The initiative includes provisions for the creation of four task forces directed towards reshaping the educational and economic climate of the Westside. The taskforce’s ultimate goal is to strengthen the connection between UTSA and San Antonio residents throughout the city.

“I think, first of all, we have to understand what the community may find of value in COLFA … and engaging more fully in the Westside Initiative that UTSA has set up recently,” Yaeger said. “I think the College of Education is doing the heavy lifting in that initiative so far, but when we’re thinking about, again, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center … some of the social challenges that face the Westside, some of the rich culture and heritage in the Westside, and the history of the Westside … we just need to identify what it is and work with those groups.”

Yaeger also addressed how he would serve transfer and nontraditional students as COLFA dean.

“I think there are certain concerns that are particular to transfer students, particularly with transfer credits, so that it’s a seamless process to move toward their bachelor’s degree if possible,” Yaeger said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that, although I do know obviously we want to address any obstacles there as we become aware of them. Again this is from my perspective in anthropology, some of our strongest students are returning students and transfer students, a lot of times they really know what they want, they’ve got some life experience that brings real value to the classroom and to discussions but also has a certain sense of purpose which is great … I think some of it is just connecting transfer students with people who have had some more experience.”

The next COLFA dean candidate forum featuring Dr. Kathaleen Amende, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Alabama State University, will take place on Feb. 5, from 8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. A complete schedule of the forums can be found at https:// story/colfa-forums.html.