The director of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership & Sustainability (ECCLS), Dr. Ricardo González, sheds light on the center’s growth and what’s to come.

Dr. Ricardo González

Dr. Ricardo González

What would members of our community be surprised to know about the ECCLS?

Our community would be surprised by the various types of programs, services and experiential opportunities the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership & Sustainability conducts each year. The ECCLS conducts over 35 different programs and services to support the needs of local, regional and international communities, such as Spring Day of Service, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services-Naturalization Ceremonies, Cardinal Community Leaders Program and Garden Days, to name a few. Additionally, over 90 percent of all programs and services are in collaboration with an agency, department or organization.

Last year, ECCLS added sustainability to its focus. Why was this important to the center’s mission?

In keeping with Sr. Dot’s vision and mission, sustainability seemed a natural fit to ensure students understand the importance of social justice as it pertains to the ecological footprint and its impact on the communities we serve. The Cardinal Recycle Technology Program, Sustainability Scholars/Ambassadors and the Community Gardens initiative are a few programs the ECCLS has developed to address sustainability.

The ECCLS oversees dozens of projects. is there one that is especially important to you?

Two programs that I feel highlight UIW’s community impact are the Cardinal Eyes Program and our natural disaster relief efforts. The Cardinal Eyes Program, a collaborative effort between Southwest Independent School District and the Rosenberg School of Optometry, allowed over 119 students to receive eye exams. Of those, 104 students received free corrective glasses through our partnership with the Essilor Vision Foundation. Similarly, UIW supported relief efforts to those in need after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the earthquakes in Mexico. At the request of UIW President Dr. Thomas M. Evans, the ECCLS, Mission & Ministry and Campus Engagement worked with partners to support the San Antonio Food Bank, Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross and the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. Over 450 students, faculty and staff provided disaster relief by donating, gathering and distributing items, which amounted to more than 800 hours of service.

There are always initiatives emerging from the ECCLS. What’s new?

We have two. The first is the Mission Life competition, which includes students from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná in Brazil (where it originated), Kent State University and UIW. The competition’s goal is to foster entrepreneurship, social justice and innovation that address real-world problems. This year’s International Finalist Competition takes place on Nov. 12 and the project theme is Immigration in the 21st Century. The second is the Spring Day of Service, and though not new, we hope it will become a tradition. Last year’s Day of Service was part of Dr. Evans’ presidential inauguration activities and involved the entire campus community. It was such a success that we’d like to continue this effort and hopefully extend an opportunity to our international campuses, alumni and School of Professional Studies programs to join us on March 30, 2019.

How can alumni and community members get involved in projects or help start new ones?

There are many ways! Visit our website or our office, located in Room 158 of the administration building, or email the staff directly. Moreover, we invite our alumni and campus community to participate in any of the programs we conduct. They may also contact us if they represent an organization or nonprofit that others service opportunities for students. Finally, if they are unable to give their time but still want to support the legacy of Sr. Dot and the ministry of service, they may donate in the name of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership & Sustainability to UIW’s Office of Development.