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UTSA students: Personal milestones define student success

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What does success look like for a student at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), a great multicultural learning and research enterprise? Is it earning a degree, landing their dream job, becoming financially stable or making their loved ones proud?


Transfer student Isis Burks says she achieved success when she left her comfort zone to make friends at UTSA and by getting involved and excelling in her degree program and internships. The senior kinesiology major and her family moved to Houston from St. Louis about three years ago. In addition to leaving her hometown, family, and friends, but, she also transferred to UTSA, a new university in an unfamiliar city.


“I talked to my mom on the phone about four times a day! She encouraged me to stick it out and my older siblings, who had gone to college, encouraged me to get involved on campus,” said Burks.


Burks said she made an effort to meet new people and would attend student organization meetings to learn about the different groups on campus. She got involved with NAACP chapter at UTSA, the UTSA Pre-Physical Therapy Society, the student organization, VOICES, and other groups.


“Once I got involved on campus, I became a much more outgoing and positive person,” said Burks. “To me, student success is based on getting an education and developing as a young adult. At UTSA, I grew as a person, professionally, academically and socially.”


As a peer mentor in the UTSA Roadrunner Transition Experience, Burks now shares tips with other students who might be going through what she did.


Recently, Burks participated in a UTSA focus group to define student success. The group included undergraduate and graduate students from different backgrounds.


Graduate student Jonathan Casas participated in the focus group and shared that he, much like other students who will be the first in their families to earn a four-year degree, shares his success with family members who love and support him on his educational journey.


Casas’ parents came to San Antonio from Mexico more than 20 years ago and worked tough jobs to give him and his younger brother more opportunities than they had. They encouraged him to do well in school, and he excelled at Highlands High School before attending Texas A&M University, College Station to earn his bachelor’s degree. At UTSA, he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in school psychology.


“I want to make sure my parents know that their sacrifices for me meant a lot and paid off. They always motivated me to do my best,” said Casas.


Another member of the first-gen Roadrunner family, Deaisha Coleman, a senior from Dallas, also took part in the focus group. She says the resources in place at UTSA support other students like herself who are the first in their families to navigate college.


“Success means being able to receive resources from the university so when students graduate they are equipped with the necessary skills to start their careers,” said Coleman.


The focus group, which met this summer, helped to develop UTSA’s Unified Vision of Student Success:


Student Engagement and Belonging

An inclusive, student-minded culture exists that provides a positive student experience resulting in student connectedness towards UTSA during and post-graduation.


Student Retention and Persistence

All students remain, register each semester and successfully continue their undergraduate education. Also, if you are failing and need academic support, is there a way to make sure you get help from an advisor, faculty member, or mentor?


Educational Attainment

All students persist to degree completion and attainment of their degree, program or educational goal within a time frame that is desirable to the student and with the least amount of debt possible.


Academic Achievement

Students achieve increasingly higher levels of academic performance as they progress through and complete their college experience.


Student Achievement

Students have the ability to participate in high impact practices (including, but not limited to employment, internships, experiential learning, research and co-curricular experiences) and are prepared to articulate their marketable skills in order to obtain desired post-graduation employment and beyond (achievement, impacting people/programs, research, networking).


“The student viewpoints that emerged from this focus group help us understand that for our students success is about retention, graduation, and so much more. UTSA students measure student success by personal achievements, experiences, and reaching milestones,” said Rhonda M. Gonzales, UTSA interim vice president for Student Success.


Gonzales is leading a Student Success Task Force that is developing a student success plan that includes goals, metrics, accountability and self-assessment. The plan will have a student-focused strategy and consider the student experience from the start of their journey with us to career launch.


“We plan to use this feedback to expand upon the initiatives UTSA has to support students to become future leaders in academia and the workforce,” she added.


UTSA is committed to delivering exceptional student experiences and creating an atmosphere where students feel welcome, supported and engaged. As a next generation Hispanic Serving Institution, UTSA fosters innovation and creative discovery by channeling its expertise into tackling critical societal issues of today and tomorrow and being a research-intensive environment where underserved students can thrive.


UTSA is ranked among the nation’s top five young universities, according to Times Higher Education.



View the original on UTSA Today: http://www.utsa.edu/today/2018/08/story/StudentSuccessFocusGroup.html

Photo courtesy of University Communications





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