Most college students shudder at the thought of being in school another four years. Richard Gambitta has been at UTSA for 33.
Gambitta has been a professor of Political Science at UTSA since 1976, a decision he has no regrets about.
“I had opportunities elsewhere but I have always loved it here,” Gambitta says. “I fell in love with the people and community of San Antonio, right away. It is like no other city.”
In addition to teaching at the university, Gambitta is also very involved in the San Antonio community, serving as commissioner of the San Antonio Housing Authority, former chair of the board of Goodwill Industries, the mayor’s commission on Integrity and Trust in Government and the brand new Commission to assess trains and trolleys in San Antonio.
Gambitta is one of two professors to have received the first ever Outstanding Teaching Awards from the UT system, alongside engineering professor Chunjian Qian.
The awards were handed out at a special dinner ceremony August 2009 in Austin, recognizing the two professors for their outstanding contributions, to the university.
For Gambitta, the inaugural Outstanding Teaching Award is just one of many he has received through the course of his storied career. He has also received the University of Texas System’s Chancellor’s Council Outstanding Teaching Award twice, and the UTSA President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Outstanding Teaching twice, among several others. Despite all his accomplishments, Gambitta still feels that his students are his biggest accomplishments.
“I find the most satisfaction from knowing that I have contributed to the development of many students and opened doors of opportunity for them through which they can continue to develop long after my contributions,” he said
What students say about their professors often reveal characteristics the professors may not even know Caryn Malone, a student in spring 2006 writes of Gambitta, “I have never seen a professor so dedicated to making sure students succeed. He goes beyond what is asked of him and beyond the text of his coursework and finds ways to teach his students about who we are and how much we are able to accomplish.”
Jessica Castilleja, who first met Gambitta in 2007, went on, “In the time that I have known Gambitta he has become much more than just a professor; he has become a mentor, a friend and a constant source of encouragement for me. He does not give up on his students and he is willing to go out of his way to ensure that we have as many opportunities as possible available to us.”
Chunjian Qian doesn’t have the history at UTSA that Gambitta does, but in his shorter time here has already accumulated his share of accomplishments. After joining the university in 2001, Qian works for the department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, specializing in control engineering with applications to power plant systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, biomedical engineering systems and aerospace systems.
Upon receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fudan University in Shanghia, China, Qian came to America and worked as a TA and a lab instructor for three years at Case Western Reserve University. “One of the professors who I worked for in Case is an excellent instructor.” Dr. Qian says of his experience at the University.
“His students talked to me a lot about him on how he changed their interests in the course materials. Another passion of mine is research. Both teaching and research are very rewarding and hence I wanted to be a professor.”
Qian also considers students to be a big part of why he does what he does.
On the subject of the university’s future, Qian said, “UTSA is moving rapidly towards its goal to become a major research institution. To support this goal, we also need to have an excellent student body who will supply researchers to the research projects. I am active in both research and teaching and I treat them equally. I am very passionate about research in which I have been actively involving UTSA students. Also I will keep putting my efforts and time to improve teaching skills.”
Both men will undoubtedly continue the tradition of expanding the university and its reputation.