Developed from the findings of the 21st Century Learning Environments Task Group and tasked with creating a collaborative and creative learning environment, UTSA’s Equity Advocacy Initiative has been launched. The initiative will have several areas of focus, including the integration of inclusive teaching strategies; the expansion of access to higher education through UTSA pipelines, which offers opportunities for disadvantaged high school students to attend UTSA; the implementation of diverse recruitment practices; the expansion of work study; and the advocacy of other initiatives that will forward the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“As a Hispanic thriving institution, I think UTSA has a special opportunity to really lead around, making sure we are advocating for equity across the board,” Provost Kimberly Espy said. “This includes providing students, staff and faculty opportunities to think about those issues, talk intellectually about them and participate in those activities that will advance our values.”
Espy hopes for the initiative to reflect one of the core principles of the 21st Century Learning Environments Task Group: to harbor and encourage critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
As far as the opportunities students and faculty can take to remain engaged in furthering such a mission, Espy points to the university’s Tactical Team process, which sets up large groups of faculty and staff that research particular issues such as the availability of clear pathways to degree completion and access to higher education. For students, both the expansion of the Bold Promise program, which covers tuition and fees for eligible undergraduates, and the Common First-Year Experience have the potential to create community through common course works and campus participation.
Espy notes the importance of the initiative, particularly during a pandemic.
“It certainly is true that the pandemic has increased the urgency of such an initiative,” Espy said. “National studies have shown that the pandemic has had differential impacts on persons of color, and as a university that is committed to the success of all students, during the pandemic I think it provides a unique opportunity to take up these issues and tackle them in our own neighborhood and be a leader for other institutions across the nation.”
According to Espy, the broad scope of the new initiative paegents university leaderships deep institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion while also promoting teamwork across the university.
“This broad scope requires all of us,” Espy said. “And it’s really quite exciting and important to see an initiative like this that is happening across the institution, around the community, maybe in a particular college or division. It’s really working at those multiple levels simultaneously that you can really propel the institution and kind of accelerate on success.”