In January, a university delegation that included several members of the Board of Trustees met with officials from the Southland Conference regarding our interest in becoming a member. Joining the Southland, which is a Division 1 conference, would be a significant step toward increasing our profile not just in Texas, but also nationally.
In early February, we announced the development of a Fencing and International Sports Center that will serve as the premier fencing facility in the region. The center will be utilized for many fencing-related activities and competitions. It’ll also allow us to develop an NCAA fencing program, which will provide new opportunities for local students who’d like to get involved in collegiate fencing but don’t want to leave San Antonio to do so.
The fencing center will be built using a $2 million grant we received from the Bexar County Community Venues Office, to which we’ll add another $1 million, and will be constructed on the grounds of St. Anthony Catholic High School, which is owned and operated by UIW.
These efforts are critical to our long-range goal of growing into the largest private university in Texas by the end of this decade, something that will provide greater access to those individuals seeking an Incarnate Word education, particularly those from groups historically underrepresented in higher education.
Hispanics, for example, comprise about 16 percent of the population of the United States and 38 percent in Texas (Hispanics are the largest minority group in both). Yet only about 14 percent of the country’s Hispanics who are 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree. Let me put these figures in the context of what we’re doing at Incarnate Word: as was reported last year, we’re No. 1 nationally among faith-based universities in the conferring of bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics and No. 2 among all private universities in the country.
With our continued growth – the enrollment has more than doubled in the last ten years and there are more employees now than there were full-time students in 1985 – it’s important that the UIW brand be as recognizable in places like Dallas and Houston as it is in South Texas.
The enhanced name-recognition will make our graduates more attractive to potential employers, especially to those located outside of South Texas, a serious consideration in these tough economic times. This will also lead to an increase in the admission standards, making that process much more competitive. Over time, both of these factors will have the effect of building additional equity in UIW degrees.
I encourage you to read the rest of this issue to catch-up on what else has been happening at Incarnate Word, including a profile on long-time benefactor Gayle Benson (the football stadium is named after Gayle and her husband, Tom).
Remember, it’s because of your commitment to our community that we can continue fulfilling Incarnate Word’s goal of offering students the best possible educational opportunities within a context of faith. Please remember an investment in higher education is something that will yield returns for a lifetime for you, your family and our community.
Special blessings on you and your loved ones throughout 2012.
Louis J. Agnese Jr., Ph.D.