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Last month, UTSA announced that it received a prestigious Carnegie Award, given to schools that demonstrate significant engagement in the community.

The designation, which is awarded every five years, is the culmination of years of work by the university.

“The Carnegie award is essentially a designation for an award that is made by the Carnegie Foundation to recognize universities that are significantly involved in community service,” explained Jude Valdez, UTSA’s vice president for community services.

The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as “collaboration between a university and the community that enriches scholarship and research, spurs creativity, addresses pressing social issues and prepares students to be educated, engaged citizens who value civic responsibility,” according to UTSA Today.

“The Carnegie designation speaks to our commitment to community outreach and our drive to make a difference in the lives of our students and our community,” said UTSA President Ricardo Romo in a statement. “It is a remarkable milestone for the university and another advancement in our journey to Tier One recognition.”

This was UTSA’s first time receiving the Carnegie designation. Among the other schools earning the recognition this year were the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech and the University of Houston.

“These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities and revitalizing their civic and academic missions,” said John Saltmarsh, director of the New England Resources Center for Higher Education (NERCHE). The NERCHE is the administrative partner of the Carnegie Foundation with the purpose of managing and administering the classification process.

“I think our work within the District 8 community within my office has been benefited by UTSA, not just in terms of an institution, but its students, its faculty, its staff,” said City Councilman Ron Niremberg, who represents UTSA’s Main Campus. “We know that the growth of UTSA and the activities that UTSA engages in are rich and important for the greater San Antonio community.”

“We are an engaged university,” Valdez said. “Since UTSA was first established, we have been deeply connected to our region and our community.”

The Carnegie foundation also reflected upon UTSA’s work with veterans, Hispanics and underserved communities when considering the designation. Additionally, over 15,000 UTSA faculty, students and staff volunteered their time, combining for over 400,000 hours of outreach.

“I know that students at UTSA have been on the forefront of civic engagement, of getting involved with their communities,” Niremberg said.

UTSA’s work in the community has earned the praise of local officials and business leaders. Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is also a lecturer in UTSA’s College of Public Policy, said that “UTSA students and graduates have been critical to San Antonio’s economic and community development.”

Chief among these economic impacts are the 16,000 jobs supported by UTSA and the $1.2 billion impact the university contributes to the local economy each year. About 70 percent of UTSA’s graduates stay in San Antonio and continue to contribute to the local economy.

Additionally, UTSA spends around $50 million each year on research, much of which stays within the regional economy and helps San Antonio grow into a more modern city as well.

And the money has been flowing both ways: of the over $100 million UTSA raised as part of its Capital Campaign, very little of it has come from UTSA alumni. Instead, an overwhelming majority of the money raised has been donated by members of the San Antonio business community, indicating a strong desire for UTSA to be a major source of change and growth in San Antonio in the future.

In addition to work in the local community, Valdez said, the designation also took into consideration UTSA’s work with regional and global outreach. “The College of Business does a lot of work in China, the College of Education does a lot of stuff in Africa,” Valdez said. “So our involvement (with the global community) has really grown.”

“UTSA is an outstanding model for how educational institutions can engage with their communities,” said Taylor.

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