The University of Texas at San Antonio officially broke ground Monday on the $90 million School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center, the soon-to-be anchor of a high-tech downtown hub, President Taylor Eighmy said.

The onset of construction of the 167,000-square foot, six-story building on Dolorosa Street marked the beginning of UTSA’s expansion of its downtown campus. The School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center (SDS/NSCC) is slated to open in fall 2022 along San Pedro Creek.

The SDS/NSCC will serve as a bridge between UTSA and San Antonio’s tech companies, creating a path to set the university and city apart in the fields of data science and cybersecurity. Eighmy said he believes the school will help attract more companies with data science needs to the area by creating a talented workforce pool.

“We are working very closely together as a community to attract companies from California to move here who are in the data science and cybersecurity space,” he said. “We’re trying to grow our data science ecosystem here, and we’re trying to, at the same time, grow our workforce to accommodate the growth in that ecosystem.”

Eighmy predicted the university’s enrollment would increase by more than 10,000 students by 2028, to 45,000 from the current 35,000.

Construction on the building is funded with $75 million from the university’s permanent fund and a $15 million gift from philanthropist Graham Weston, a San Antonio real estate developer, co-founder of tech company Rackspace Technology, and chairman of Community Labs.

During Monday’s virtual groundbreaking, Weston said the new school will become one of the largest of its kind in the country and produce graduates with one of the “most sought-after degrees.”

“If we produce a few graduates, those graduates will find jobs anywhere in the country,” he said. “If we produce a lot of graduates, companies will want to come here to hire and keep them here. This is not just for people who move to San Antonio. It’s especially for San Antonians and South Texans to give them qualifications to be in some of the best jobs in this era.”

UTSA and Port San Antonio recently signed a five-year agreement to build new research programs, educate and train students and researchers, and advance science and technology. The agreement also allows the university and the South San Antonio industrial hub to pursue joint funding requests.

Eighmy said the partnership is just part of the ecosystem UTSA wants to build downtown. The university plans to work with other companies that use data science, including USAA, Amazon, H-E-B, Intel, Dell, Rackspace Technology, and UT Health San Antonio.

“Our efforts about expanding our current downtown campus to include the National Security Collaboration Center and especially the School of Data Science is a testament to our efforts to want to expand what we’re doing downtown,” he said.

A rendering of the UTSA School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center along San Pedro Creek in downtown San Antonio. Credit: Courtesy / Whiting-Turner I Jacobs I Overland

Weston said it was important for UTSA to expand its downtown campus because “almost every great major city” has a university downtown. With the expansion, students will be able to live downtown and experience a new and different culture than UTSA students residing on the Northside main campus.

“It’s going to be one of the most important additions to the academic world in San Antonio,” he said.

The School of Data Science will include about 86,000 square feet of classroom, laboratory, and research space for the 6,500 data science students projected to enroll there by 2022. UTSA’s 70-plus faculty members in cybersecurity, cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence will be located in the school, facilitating more frequent collaborations with government, industry, and community partners. The university’s Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Statistics and Data Sciences, and Information Systems and Cyber Security departments will reside in the new building, as well as its Open Cloud Institute.

The NSCC will have more than 81,000-square feet for innovation, laboratories, and research located within the School of Data Science. Currently operating at the UTSA Main Campus, the center is a cybersecurity field hub for government, university, and industry partners, according to a press release.

Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.