News

Pivoting with Excellence

In this issue, you’ll hear from an alumna doing epic things with sign language translation, our new esports coach, counseling students dedicated to improving mental health and a host of faculty, staff, students and alumni who helped St. Mary’s University pivot with excellence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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News

Alumni

‘You have to be aligned,’ says alumni couple who discovered a lifetime of love

When it comes to a lasting romance, it’s not just a matter of the heart, but also the head. That’s what Sonya (B.A. ’95) and Enrique Alemán Jr. (B.A. ’93) have learned over their 25-year marriage — a love that began at St. Mary’s University in 1993.

Pivoting with excellence: George Hernandez Jr.

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with alumnus George Hernandez Jr., President and CEO of University Health System.

Pivoting with excellence: Alejandra “Alex” Lopez

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with alumna Alejandra "Alex" Lopez, Economic Development Director for the City of San Antonio.

Pivoting with excellence: Nelson Wolff

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with alumnus and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Pivoting with excellence: Alumna’s advice as nurse during pandemic: ‘be kinder to one another’

June 23, 2020. Riverside, California – an hour’s drive from Los Angeles. A makeshift emergency room without air-conditioning inside Parkview Community Hospital – a small-volume hospital that served mostly nursing home patients before the coronavirus pandemic.

St. Mary’s alumna uncovers Aztec history as Library of Congress intern

Recent St. Mary’s University alumna Maria Guadalupe “Lupita” Partida had a rare opportunity to step into the mind of an Aztec messenger through her remote internship this summer with the Library of Congress.

Alumni support St. Mary’s and each other through lifelong friendship

Michael “Mickey” Schott (B.B.A. ’68) peers over first base toward the green outfield. The bat makes a loud crack! Schott fields the ball and tags the runner out. The memories flood his mind like it happened yesterday, but it has been more than 50 years.

Business alum participates in school district’s efforts to help families in need

Like most people in the city — and around the world — Jose Placencia’s (B.B.A. ’10) life has changed drastically from one day to the next during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce leader builds robust national network

With more than 4.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S., advocating for them is a big job. It’s one that launched Ramiro Cavazos (M.P.A. ’03) out of the Lone Star State and into the nation’s capital.

Grad gives back by establishing schools abroad

Terrill Kucera is not your ordinary educator. Terrill Kucera works for Catholic Relief Services as an education program manager in Bamyan, Afghanistan. The well-traveled alumnus has worked abroad with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for most of the last decade.

Alumna, discovered by San Antonio tech startup company on LinkedIn, becomes CEO a year later

Selling chocolates, baked goods and lemonade at age 8. Buying gumball machines to expand profits at 12. Then, purchasing vending machines at age 16. Perhaps her entrepreneurial spirit comes from her grocery store-owning parents, but Alejandra Zertuche (B.S. ’08, M.B.A. ’11) has always been all about business.

Alumna has traveled the world, rebuilding and changing communities

As director of community impact for SA2020, Kiran Bains is at the heart of San Antonio’s commitment to propelling businesses and nonprofits to fulfill the city’s vision: deliver quality services to the public and achieve prosperity.

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Arts and Humanities

Students collect historical information for coronavirus digital archive

By the time the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the St. Mary’s University community, faculty and students in the Department of History had already begun documenting the swift and historical changes reshaping the Rattler landscape.

Pivoting with excellence: Allison Gray

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with theology professor Allison Gray.

Pivoting with excellence: Communications professor puts student needs first

Taking advantage of the flexibilities of online learning, Communications Assistant Professor Amanda Hill, Ph.D., has made virtual learning more beneficial for all her students.

Sociology professor helps launch new Public Health certificate

At no time in modern history has the need for public health expertise been more striking, nor has the call to rectify inequities in the nation’s public health system been louder.

Environmental Science major publishes children’s book

The summer entering her sophomore year of college, Midori Flores, an Environmental Science junior at St. Mary’s University, began work on her first children’s book.

The graduate counseling program prepares the next generation of mental health professionals

One in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness. But help is on the way. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors will grow 25% this decade.

Communication Studies major turns campus fossil hunter

Karina Nanez, senior Communication Studies major, has collected rocks — almost daily — since age 5. The El Paso native picked up the hobby from her aunt Josefina, who inspired in her an early sense of wonderment at the natural world.

Graduate student translates The Odyssey into American Sign Language

In Greece in the eighth century B.C., Homer began composing an epic poem, The Odyssey, which would become one of history’s most influential pieces of literature.

Spanish professor helps immigrants in San Antonio through innovative course

Of 2.3 million people living in San Antonio, more than 295,000 are immigrants, and about 175,000 are potentially at risk of deportation, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

Big Solve: Educating Beyond the Test

This year, a former student, now a middle school teacher, approached me about a pupil who had confided in him about having thoughts of self-harm. This was not the first time I heard the issue of mental stress in teenagers.

Some books to keep you company this summer

Tired of being cooped up indoors this summer? Here’s a list of Rattler reads to keep you company — books recently written by our very own St. Mary’s University alumni, professors and staff.

English Instructor champions Mexican American studies in University, K-12 schools

Every semester, Margaret Cantú-Sanchez, Ph.D. (B.A. ’06, M.A. ’07), hears students say, “I’ve never read anything by a Mexican American author.” While this shocks her, it is an all too common experience among educators, even in a city as diverse as San Antonio, which is 64% Latino.

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Athletics and Recreation

Pivoting with excellence: Men’s Soccer captain continues studies from Brazil

Deni Cresto, a junior from Curitiba, Brazil, studying Exercise and Sport Science, often refers to a message from St. Mary’s University Men’s Soccer Head Coach Johnny Clifford: “Control what you can control.”

Rattler Baseball player graduates to research scientist

Like young baseball fans around the world, Jeff Wigdahl dreamed of making the big league — Major League Baseball.

New St. Mary’s coach among first female varsity collegiate esports coaches

Breaking into the world of esports has been a challenge for women. At St. Mary’s University, Kaitlin Teniente found her chance to become the first head coach — leading the new varsity Esports Program.

Big Solve: Changing the culture

The loss of the opening game of the Fall 2019 Men’s Soccer season felt like a make-or-break moment. But it wasn’t just the loss that stung — it was the way we lost.

Soccer player Pato Botello Faz inks pro deal

In his senior season on the St. Mary’s University Men’s Soccer team, Pato Botello Faz took the Heartland Conference by storm and signed to play with a United Soccer League club in Michigan, the Lansing Ignite.

Roller derby members bring track lessons to St. Mary’s

“Just put a Band-Aid on it.” This was Melanie Call’s nonchalant response after receiving a busted lip playing for the Alamo City Roller Girls (ACRG), San Antonio’s women’s roller derby team.

Coaching for Impact

Hannah Petersen heard stories of how difficult it would be to say goodbye to her new friends in Vietnam after a three-week stay of service in Summer 2017.

Alumna sets the stage for Super Bowl LI

Erica Baum (B.S. ’96) always dreamed of doing something bigger than herself — she just didn’t realize how literal that might be.

You Don’t Know Sumo

Jessica Brower has, perhaps, the best icebreaker in the history of conversation. The diminutive St. Mary’s University senior tells people, quite matter-of-factly, that she’s a sumo wrestler.

St. Mary’s Grad Becomes Youngest Head Coach in Mexican Professional Basketball History

It might not seem like an obvious connection, but for Eric Weissling (B.B.A. ’10), his St. Mary’s University business education is a perfect match for his career as a professional basketball coach.

The Year of the Rattler

St. Mary’s Athletics has strung together many impressive seasons in many different sports during recent years, but 2014-2015 will go down as something special: three sports in tight national championship chases, buzzer-beating playoff wins, and a record number of academic award winners, just to name a few.

Rattler Pitches a Perfect Tribute

On Feb. 21, 2014, St. Mary’s baseball pitcher Matt McClain had a game for the ages, tossing a nine-inning no-hitter against Rogers State. He struck out 12 in Rattler baseball’s first no hitter since the 2007 season and just the second in at least 12 years.

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Business

Pivoting with excellence: Sung-Tae (Daniel) Kim

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with business professor Sung-Tae (Daniel) Kim.

Pivoting with excellence: Robbie Bishop-Monroe

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with business professor Robbie Bishop-Monroe.

Big Solve: Bridging Economic Divides

Economic divide — it’s the common threat to a global society. For example, mango farmers in Haiti earn 2% of revenues for their labor. That’s only two cents for every dollar of mangoes sold.

Alum to help San Antonio’s economy by boosting entrepreneurship

Flourishing through innovation underpins not only Rene Dominguez’s life, but also his career in economic development in the Alamo City.

Understanding industrial organizational psychology propels new career options

Studies consistently show the most promising careers now require “softer” relationship-oriented abilities paired with strong analytical skills. For instance, the role of human resources manager landed in the 35th slot among 800 fastest growing occupational fields in the United States.

Certificate program fills gap in soaring demand for business intelligence experts

Predictions show the world will generate 163 zettabytes of data annually by 2025, according to the research group IDC. Businesses are forecast to create and manage 60% of that data.

Management major launches online luxury eyelash business

Nadia Carrasco-Vasquez hadn’t been at St. Mary’s University a full semester before thinking, “I’m tired of being broke. I need to do something with my education.”

Business professor helps Ethiopian nonprofit brew up business

What struck Professor of International Business Jeffrey Johnson, Ph.D., most was the orphans’ joy. “They were amazing, happy, always smiling, always wanting to play volleyball or soccer,” Johnson said of the 160 African children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Finance professor helps students manage $2.4 million investment portfolio

The Mexico native co-taught the Student Managed Portfolio class with now-retired Professor Richard Bauer, Ph.D., who launched the course in 2007 to give St. Mary’s business students an opportunity to invest real money in companies — starting with a $1 million fund.

St. Mary’s Core class learns business insights in Australia

In March, 11 St. Mary’s University students in a Core Curriculum capstone class — SMC 4301: Prospects for Community and Civilization — traveled to Australia for a week. It was the first time a Core capstone class was held abroad.

North Carolina businesswoman credits St. Mary’s as factor for success

By age 22, Sarah Place (M.B.A. ’98) had lived in 13 states — but had yet to truly find her place. One of those stops was Texas, where her father was stationed at Fort Sam Houston.

Business alum cherishes car collection, lifetime friendships

You can hear the joy in John Sieffert’s voice when he talks about his collection of ’50s and ’60s factory muscle cars, most of which are restored to concours quality — a standard far exceeding mint condition.

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Community

Collegiate cats find companionship at St. Mary’s

At any given time, the St. Mary’s University campus is home to at least 10 free-ranging felines.  Marty, Ringo, Possum and Oliver hang around Blume Library, while A.J., who has made a shelter of campus for more than a decade, frequents the Marianist Residence in her old age.

Pivoting with excellence: St. Mary’s community adapts in response to pandemic

At St. Mary’s University, at no time in our history has our ability to succeed as a team been tested as it has amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At no time has our ability to come together ensured the future of the University and our region as we have this year.

Pivoting with excellence: Housekeeping staff continue their spotless record

During a pandemic, proper cleaning is crucial. Fortunately for the St. Mary’s community, the Housekeeping Department went above and beyond even before COVID-19.

Pivoting with excellence: Rattler Success Center supports students in online learning

At the University made the transition to online, the Rattler Success Center (RSC) was one step ahead, having already begun online tutoring earlier in the 2019-2020 academic year.

International mother and son graduate in St. Mary’s first virtual Commencement

Most students who go to college leave behind proud parents at home. For Abdulrahman Almaghlooth (B.A. ’20), he not only went to college with his mother, Reema Alhowaish (Ph.D. ’20), but also graduated with her in the spring as part of St. Mary’s University’s first virtual Commencement ceremony.

Graduate student escapes homeland for St. Mary’s, thrives at new safe haven

Christmas Day, 2018. A couple of bags in hand, Shaima Khalaf flew into San Antonio to start a new life as a student in the Master of Arts in English Literature and Language program at St. Mary’s University.

St. Mary’s faculty and staff tackle society’s biggest challenges

At St. Mary’s University, our campus community talks a lot about educating leaders for the common good — a noble yet, on first glance, abstract notion. What does it look like when our faculty and staff apply their expertise to solving some of humanity’s biggest problems?

University counselors, staff adapt to meet students’ holistic health needs

Universities across the country, including St. Mary’s University, have been grappling with increasing mental health concerns among their student bodies. Compounding those existing challenges are the spread of the coronavirus across the United States and the significant shifts in the way we work, learn, teach and live.

Students succeed with help from The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign

The gifts of The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign have already made a huge impact on student success. Students and faculty share their paths to success through the short story and quotes.

The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign gifts bring glory to a St. Mary’s University education

One gift alone can contribute to transformative educational opportunities — the defining moments that change a student’s trajectory from unsure to successful, elevate a professor’s research into the national limelight and support the University community in its faith journey with Catholic and Marianist traditions.

Professor and student research St. Mary’s Hispanic-serving history

Gerald E. Poyo, Ph.D., resolved to tell the story of St. Mary’s University’s history with the intention of uncovering its Hispanic historical narrative. What he found was the University’s foundation, from the very start, was rooted in a call to serve Mexican children.

Student from Nepal forges a community far from home

Shirish Amatya, a senior Computer Science major in the Marianist Leadership Program, is a long way from home. That’s because Amatya grew up in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, nearly 8,500 miles away from St. Mary’s University.

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Faith and Service

After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican double-major regains confidence at St. Mary’s

When Wilzave Guzman thinks of her homeland — Puerto Rico — she is filled with good memories of growing up in a tight-knit neighborhood, volunteering with military organizations to help feed the island’s needy. But for the senior double majoring in Environmental Science and in International and Global Studies there is also pain and, at the same time, acceptance and awe at the vast power of Mother Nature.

Pivoting with excellence: The Rattler Impact Scholarship awards over $1.2 million to nearly 1,000 students

In July, through the generosity of the St. Mary’s University Alumni Association, President Mengler and his wife, Mona, combined with University funds, St. Mary’s offered the Rattler Impact Scholarship to further support nearly 1,000 students in Fall 2020.

Pivoting with excellence: Mask Squad takes on safety measures

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear masks. The Mask Squad — a group of about 80 St. Mary’s University students who were trained and are committed to the health and safety of every member of our community — have worked to stem the spread of COVID-19 on campus this fall.

Chapel Choir releases video collaborations amid pandemic

Since 2007, more than 100 students at St. Mary’s University have sung their hearts out for the masses as proud participants of Chapel Choir.

Staff member leads virtual prayer sessions amidst coronavirus pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic hit San Antonio during spring break – temporarily paralyzing St. Mary’s University’s prayer community – it didn’t take long for Jessica Uhlig, Ed.D., Executive Director of Marianist Educational Associates, to place her faith in technology.

Ethics expert proposes framework for “Voting Catholic”

While there’s no perfect way to “Vote Catholic,” theologian Julie Hanlon Rubio, Ph.D., proposes a framework for helping the faithful make tough decisions during election season. Rubio is a Professor of Social Ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California.

Students and faculty showcase the formation of faith at St. Mary’s

Find out how our students and faculty are better able to strengthen their beliefs through the gifts of The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign through Q&A and quotes.

St. Mary’s students study religious pilgrimage in Israel

From following the steps of Jesus’ crucifixion at Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa to visiting the Western Wall and the Dead Sea, 14 students in a Theology course this spring visited important Israeli sites of pilgrimage in the Christian, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic faith traditions.

University mission meets Marianist calling to improve neighborhood

For 71 years, Holy Rosary Catholic Church and St. Mary’s University have been neighbors on San Antonio’s West Side. Literally steps apart, these two Marianist institutions have largely existed in parallel. Now, there are significant efforts to converge their futures — and strengthen the neighborhoods around them in the process.

West Side native embraces a giving spirit

Growing up on the West Side of San Antonio, Amelia “Amy” Nieto (B.B.A. ’89, M.P.A. ’97) remembers summer evenings riding her bike from her childhood home on Marquette Street to the St. Mary’s University campus, waving to Brother William J. Hamm, S.M., on his nightly runs.

History’s role in faith and law will enrich Red Mass

As members of the legal community prepare to reflect on the intersection of faith and law during Red Mass in October, it may be equally important to remember how faith has played a part in 300 years of San Antonio history.

Nuclear physicist finds divine chemistry as Brazilian missionary

For six decades, the now 86-year-old Kunihiro has served as a life mentor to the men, women and children of Japanese ancestry in Brazil, many of whom face drug addiction, mental disorders and familial problems.

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Law

Health care professional overcomes personal obstacles to graduate law degree

In 2016, Becky Keller’s (M.Jur. ’19) husband was diagnosed with cancer. A mother of two, Keller was about to begin her graduate studies when this news hit. Though she was unsure how to balance everything occurring in her personal life, she knew what she needed to do next.

Military veteran continues to serve community through pro bono work

Third-year J.D. student and decorated U.S. Army veteran Tanya Burke zipped through the pro bono hour requirement for graduation in her first semester at the St. Mary’s University School of Law.

New dean to build on spirit of service at St. Mary’s Law

The mark of a great law school to Patricia Roberts, J.D., is weaving values of service into the educational mission, while training skilled, competent lawyers — both ethical and formed in faith.

Pivoting with excellence: St. Mary’s Law adapts in response to pandemic

This year, the St. Mary’s University School of Law community joined together as never before to meet the needs of its student body and the San Antonio region.

Pivoting with excellence: Law students and alumni unite to provide remote services to health care workers

Several St. Mary's Law students and alumni joined an effort by the San Antonio Legal Services Association (SALSA) to draft wills for health care workers battling COVID-19 on the frontlines in San Antonio this summer.

Pivoting with excellence: Law associate dean hones sense of gratitude through online transition

This fall, Ramona L. Lampley, J.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, kept students engaged through a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous components, coupled with multiple assessments and a flipped classroom model.

Pivoting with excellence: Law assistant dean forges new digital connections

In some ways, going virtual has made it easier for the Office for Law Student Affairs to meet with students, said Alan K. Haynes, J.D., Assistant Dean for Law Student Affairs. Setting up meetings with students before could be difficult, especially if they lived outside San Antonio. Even if it’s just a conversation, Haynes will use Zoom instead of the phone to talk to the student.

Pivoting with excellence: Law externship director helps prep students for virtual practice

Hustling to move the law school’s Externship Program online by summer, Amanda Rivas (J.D. ’09), Director of Externships, said her main focus was on supporting externship supervisors and externs as they switched to remote working environments, ensuring that students would continue to receive challenging work and feedback.

Pivoting with excellence: Law associate dean brings legal topics into focus through online instruction

Even before COVID-19 hit, Colin P. Marks, J.D., Associate Dean for Graduate and Summer Programs and Ernest W. Clemens Professor of Law, was certified to teach classes online. So, when he pivoted his approach mid-semester last spring, his students continued to learn through short video lectures with quizzes and a once-a-week Zoom session to discuss learning objectives and questions.

Pivoting with excellence: All-star professor leads the way for national virtual advocacy competitions

The day that A.J. Bellido de Luna, J.D., Hardy Director of Advocacy and Service Professor, was supposed to cancel the St. Mary’s University School of Law’s Lone Star Classic for the fall, three other advocacy competitions had been canceled.

Law alumna creates paths for the overlooked and underserved

Law alumna creates paths for the overlooked and underserved. After a 20-year law career, Raquel Tamez (J.D. ’98) set on a new course as CEO of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

Big Solve: Housing as a Human Right

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, on any given day in the Bexar County court system, you could find a long line of unrepresented tenants and homeowners about to lose their homes. The outcome was almost certain. Tenants would be evicted.  Homeowners would be foreclosed.

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Science and Tech

Researchers aim to increase safety for aircraft and nuclear facilities

Juan Ocampo, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is leading two projects focused on the structural integrity of aircraft and nuclear facilities, drawing students into the research process.

Pivoting with excellence: Hugo P. Salazar Jr., M.D.

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with University physician Dr. Hugo Salazar.

Pivoting with excellence: Juan Ocampo

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with engineering professor Juan Ocampo.

Pivoting with excellence: Academic Technology Services staff step up to ensure seamless online instruction

Prior to Spring 2020, Academic Technology Services provided Online Teaching Certification to about 12 faculty members each semester. Between April and the start of Fall 2020 classes, a staggering 170 faculty members completed the training.

Seniors share how St. Mary’s prepped them for medical school

True to St. Mary’s University’s commitment to delivering excellent education in the health fields, more than 460 graduates — since 1979 — have gone to study at medical school.

St. Mary’s new drone lab buzzes toward completion in Fall 2020

Construction is underway on the new Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Laboratory — or Drone Lab — at St. Mary’s University, slated for completion in October.

Electrical Engineering professor uses artificial intelligence to predict heart disease

Professor of Electrical Engineering Vahid Emamian, Ph.D., has long had his heart set on mentoring future engineers at St. Mary’s University — but also on applying cutting-edge machine learning methods to help doctors monitor heart health.

Big Solve: Mathematics for the Common Good

Last spring, I toured the Southwest Research Institute with a group of students to learn about summer internships. In a whirlwind overview, our host told us about some of their current projects and the cutting-edge mathematics being used.

Sixty years after discovery by St. Mary’s University students, Natural Bridge Caverns still unfurling mysteries

In the land before time — well, 140 million years ago — Southwest Texas lay under a warm ocean. During the Cretaceous period — about 60 million years ago — tectonic movements cracked spaces in subterranean rock.

Biology professor takes virology lessons into virtual classroom

In nearly three decades teaching at St. Mary’s University, Gary Ogden, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences, remembered a touching moment that happened early in his professorship at St. Mary’s that brought him to tears.

Engineering alumna helps create a new college in West Africa

During high school in India and with her family, Sunitha Jenarius (B.S. ’06) remembers teaching math, science and English to young girls in slums. “The high school I went to was run by nuns,” Jenarius said. “Every Friday, we brought onions and potatoes to the people living in the slums.”

The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign supports academic and research distinction

Find out how our students and faculty have followed their passions to find academic and research distinction with help from the gifts of The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign through the short story and quotes.

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Media

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