Dr. Ricardo Romo poses for a photo inside the Dr. Ricardo Romo Bibliotech on the cities west side. Photo by Scott Ball.
Ricardo Romo inside the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech on the Westside. Photo by Scott Ball.

While the University of Texas at San Antonio has been making headlines for achievements in its primary areas of academic focus, the university has been making strides in other areas as well. UTSA President Ricardo Romo has been named 2016 President of the Year by the Association of College Unions International (ACUI). At the annual ACUI conference in New Orleans on March 20-24, Romo received the award for his leadership in promoting student engagement and diversity on UTSA’s campuses.

Since becoming the university’s fifth president in 1999, Romo has ushered in many changes on the aspiring Tier One campus. Many, including the Goldstar Initiative, have been focused on building the school’s cybersecurity, biomedicine, and community engagement programs.

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At the same time, Roadrunner Football and partnerships with local school districts have increased the university’s social significance in San Antonio. At the heart of all of this growth, Romo has devoted time, energy, and resources to invigorating campus life, a key component in the college experience.

From left: UTSA President Ricardo Romo, UTSA Football head coach Frank Wilson, and UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey smile for a photo during the press conference. Photo by Mark McClendon, courtesy of UTSA.
From left: UTSA President Ricardo Romo, UTSA Football head coach Frank Wilson, and UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey smile for a photo during the press conference. Photo by Mark McClendon, courtesy of UTSA.

The ACUI award is presented to one college or university president every year in honor of their commitment to the student union idea. At UTSA, like most campuses, student organizations and activity gravitate to a campus building dedicated to extracurricular interests and campus unity. The UTSA University Center has grown in importance as UTSA seeks to build school spirit and the Roadrunner identity. Romo’s efforts are particularly significant as UTSA tries to create a campus community for non-traditional and commuter students whose schedules do not accommodate traditional student activities.

“With many of our students living off campus and taking classes at multiple venues, the UTSA University Center needs to be a place to gather and experience campus life,” said Sam Gonzales, UTSA vice president for student affairs. “We have made tremendous strides to create late-night and weekend programming as well as using the UC as 24-hour study space during finals to address this challenge.”

Students, faculty, and the ACUI praised Romo for his earnest presence among the students.

“He can be found serving students at the President’s BBQ or just spending time with students in the university center,” ACUI wrote on their award summary blog post, which also praised his “vision, passion, humility, and transformational leadership.”

In his nomination letter for Romo, Zach Dunn, UTSA’s Student Government Association president (2013-2015), wrote that Romo, “genuinely cares about the students and shows it through his engagement with students, devoting countless hours to bringing together a diverse UTSA community.”

In addition to a constant presence, building enthusiasm by example, Romo also contributed to the more intentional student life programming.

“UTSA President Ricardo Romo’s leadership in our student engagement efforts exemplifies his devotion to the mission of the university,” Gonzalez said.

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Top image: Ricardo Romo inside the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech on the Westside.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.