By Brance Arnold ’10 MA
As the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) advances into its 134th year, a deep, rich sense of pride and community remains as genuine and vibrant as its picturesque campus. There’s a feeling of home that resonates with not only students, but also faculty, alumni, parents, administration, staff, benefactors, and the Alamo City as a whole. It’s a community that has stood stalwart through the test of time and continues to blossom in the new millennium. Today, there are seemingly infinite reasons to be proud to be part of the Cardinals community.
The appeal of the university to students from all over the world continues to grow. The largest Catholic university in Texas, UIW’s enrollment increased 3.6 percent from last year, reaching nearly 10,000 students, almost triple from the year 2000. UIW has experienced a 3.4 percent increase in transfer students and the university’s campus in Mexico City, Centro Universidad Incarnate Word (CIW), has nearly 1200 students. The number of out-of-state and international students has also increased steadily over the last three academic years. As the student population increases, the school spirit UIW is famous for is more evident than ever.
“What makes me proud to be a Cardinal is the reaction I get when I tell people that I go to UIW,” said Cyntya Uriegas, a junior kinesiology student from Uvalde, Texas. “I automatically get nothing but good responses because it is a very respected school in the community.”
As soon as students arrive on campus, they are engaged with a level of support and encouragement needed to thrive; indicative of this is UIW’s First Year Engagement (FYE) program. FYE assists students with time management and study skills; selecting a major; developing a sense of community through campus involvement; identifying campus resources; and having regular contact with peer mentors.
“FYE has made me a peer mentor since my sophomore year and I have been able to help freshmen with any problems and build relationships that can last a lifetime,” said Mariah Johnson, a mathematics senior. “Every person I come in contact with on campus wants to help you succeed. They want you to reach the goals you have made for yourself and go even further than you ever thought you could.”
“The First Year Engagement and Professional Development staff and FYE peer mentors help demystify the transition from high school to UIW. First-year students learn that ‘you own your education,’ which introduces self-responsibility and an awareness of the path to success,” explained Dr. Raul Zendejas, FYE and Professional Development director.
UIW welcomed over 900 freshmen this semester with approximately 450 moving into residence halls. Every year, to kick-off the fall semester, the university holds Welcome Week which includes Freshman Move-In Day, where current students, administration, staff and faculty volunteer to help students get settled into their new home on campus. Students are also treated to a New Student BBQ, a Pinning Ceremony, and a two-day Cardinal Camp.
UIW parents seem to share this sentiment of pride and family. “From the moment our family stepped on campus at orientation just four days before the first day of classes three years ago, we felt a strong sense of belonging,” said Charles Wimett, president of the Cardinals Club. “Not only did our daughter feel this, but we as a family felt a strong bond with everyone we came in contact with. It makes our hearts swell to know that our daughter is happy here.”
However, the support and encouragement incoming students receive doesn’t end at the close of their first year; it continues all the way to a successful graduation and beyond.
“The faculty, administration, staff and my fellow students have all been a crucial part in my academic aspirations,” said Uriegas. “The advisers for my major are some of the most enthusiastic and caring educators I have encountered. Administration has wished nothing but the best for me in my future endeavors and the road to achieving them. They are never hesitant to offer advice and help when I need it.”
Dr. Glenn James, associate provost and director of institutional effectiveness, said, “I’m surrounded by faculty who are experts at how to teach in their fields, and I’m surrounded by co-workers who keep one thing on their mind – whatever I’m doing today, how will it help our students?”
“The faculty of UIW are a source of pride not only for me but for the whole institution. We have faculty that could teach anywhere but they choose to teach at UIW,” said Dr. Mary Ruth Moore, professor of teacher education. “The students are the most compelling reason I am proud of UIW. Seeing each one graduate and then go out into the world to be an informed citizen and leader in the community makes me very proud. When this happens, I know we are keeping the Mission of UIW alive for another generation.”
More than 2,700 UIW students are actively involved as members of student organizations, a glowing tribute to their school spirit.
“I am proud to be a part of a school that was built on such great morals and one way I show that is by being as involved as I can be around campus,” said Uriegas, a student ambassador.
“I am most proud of the active role our students are taking in governing and influencing policy changes on our campus,” said Paul Ayala, director of university events and student programs. “When I first arrived four years ago, our students were apathetic to the issues affecting them. Steadily I have seen the student body be more active in the community.”
UIW’s sense of community sustains even when students become alumni and enter the job market. The university now has nearly 30,000 alumni. Many alumni maintain close relationships with UIW and are enthusiastically involved and supportive of the university.
“A strong alumni association is key to UIW growth and longevity because universities need alumni participation and support for donations and connections that provide funding for scholarships, operations, new programs, events, etc. As alumni, I think we are beholden to constantly add to that value (of a degree),” said Tracy Avery ’96 BA ’12 MBA, board of trustees member and president of the UIW Alumni Association.
Hector Flores ’11 BBA, vice president of the alumni association, said a welcoming environment is simply the culture of UIW. “It’s always home,” shared Flores.
And it’s not just relatively recent alumni who cherish this sense of community and show their support.
“Truly I am so proud of UIW,” said Aileen (Wick) Hybner ’69 BA, who despite being on a fixed income contributes annually to the Capital Campaign. “The campus has changed considerably since I graduated. Every time I visit the campus I am renewed with spirit.”
The greater community strongly supports UIW as well with benefactors contributing more than $5 million in 2013-14.
Administration, faculty and staff further support students’ professional and personal development by contributing to the Employee Campaign with over $170,000 given this year. Many of UIW’s nearly 1,000 employees also contribute by serving on committees and organizations to better the university, such as the Beautification, Branding and Sustainability Committees.
UIW hosts 21 athletic teams with 10 programs for men and 11 for women. In the Cardinals’ second season in the NCAA Division I’s Southland Conference, the UIW community is showing increasing support for the university’s athletics programs. For instance, attendance at home football games increased 10 percent during the 2013-14 season and over 4,000 fans attended the 2014 home opener.
“It is really impressive the outlaying community support that we have received for our athletics teams,” said Kevin Lepore, athletics ticket manager. “Within the past year of UIW athletics events, I have seen the camaraderie come together with the student body, faculty and staff, local youth groups, and we continually strive to engage the city.”
As the university expands its brand, the sale of Cardinal merchandise has grown. Anne Richards, bookstore manager, indicated the bookstore continues to run double digit increases in Cardinal branded merchandise and has experienced an increase in merchandise being shipped outside of Texas.
In fact, UIW is garnering national attention. ESPN’s College GameDay covered the Cardinals’ football game against North Dakota State in September, which aired on ESPN3.
“This is a very exciting chapter in UIW history being on the cuff of expansion and to be a part of its growth,” said Flores.
Indeed, UIW has grown by leaps and bounds with nine colleges and schools and 80 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral majors, including doctorates in nursing, pharmacy, optometry, physical therapy, education and business administration. UIW has 134 sister schools in 45 countries as well as campuses in Mexico and Germany. The university has Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCaP) locations throughout San Antonio and in Corpus Chrisiti, with plans for a Fort Hood site in Killeen, Texas, and offers courses conveniently via UIW Online.
And with a new Fine Arts Complex set to open in January, the construction of a new Student Center beginning this spring, and plans for the opening of the School of Osteopathic Medicine, the continued access to a premium education is more reason to celebrate being a Cardinal.
“As a parent of a UIW student, we know that when our daughter goes out into the world she will carry with her not only a great education but a true sense of pride in being able to say ‘I graduated from UIW,’” said Wimett.
Hybner, who has witnessed the growth and advancement of UIW for over 40 years, shared these sagacious words: “Long live the Incarnate Word!”