Former San Antonio Mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros hugs Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp after being introduced.
Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros (right) hugs Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp after being introduced. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Texas A&M University-San Antonio officials detailed on Wednesday the university’s plans for a new leadership institute supported by and named for Henry Cisneros, the former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary and San Antonio mayor.

The Henry G. Cisneros Institute for Emerging Leaders is still in the early stages of development on the university’s South Side campus but has begun to offer courses in leadership, TAMU-SA President Cynthia Teniente-Matson told the Rivard Report.

Cisneros pledged $1 million to the center, establishing an endowment to support the institute’s activities, said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.

Over the next 18 months, before the institute is operating at full capacity, the university will conduct a national search for a director who will guide the center’s curriculum. The director is slated to start in Fall 2019.

The university’s president hopes all students at the university will take part in some of the institute’s offerings, which will include coursework, internships, and international trips.

“The goals of the Institute are to develop academic programming that fosters leadership skills across disciplines, to create a rigorous research agenda and fund teaching and graduate assistantships, and to develop opportunities for outreach and community engagement,” a university document stated.

Some of the programming will include outreach to local school districts in which community leaders mentor A&M students and college students mentor high school students, according to a university document. The university will plan an annual leadership conference to be organized by A&M students and open to the local community.

The institute also plans to host faculty, research fellows, and leadership scholars from other institutions and to publish a book series on current issues in leadership.

Cisneros graduated from Texas A&M’s flagship campus in College Station with an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. He fondly reflected on his time there at a luncheon Wednesday where he was given the Dream Maker Award for his contributions to education and spoke optimistically about the impact Texas A&M-San Antonio will continue to have on the city’s South Side.

“Texas A&M-San Antonio has a special role in the pantheon of both A&M institutions and San Antonio institutions,” Cisneros said. “It is located in a region where we need a lot of work in preparation of students, so to have an A&M campus with access to the resources and values of the A&M system right in this region, it is hugely important to those students [and] those schools.”

Sharp spoke about the Cisneros institute’s potential impact on San Antonio, saying that it will reflect Cisneros’ legacy of service to the city and country.

“Henry Cisneros is a great friend,” Sharp said. “Back in 1968, the year that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered, cities burned all across the country. Henry, then an undergraduate at Texas A&M, began to realize his life was going to take the role of public service. Particularly, he noticed the national need to rebuild the degradation of the country’s urban areas.”

The addition of the institute fits in with Sharp’s long-term goal to grow Texas A&M-San Antonio into being the second-largest arm of the Texas A&M system, after College Station.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.