Feb. 2, 2021
Hello Student Affairs Team,
It was great to celebrate you during last week’s Team Appreciation and Celebration. Over the last 12 months, I’ve witnessed—over and over and over again—acts of selflessness, service, resilience and inventiveness that have left me awestruck.
As I said during the meeting, I am grateful for each and every one of you.
One of my favorite annual traditions is recognizing three of our team members with the Texas Parents Staff Merit Awards. These are three incredible people, no doubt, but this year, they’re also representatives: They stand for everything that makes us a connected, collaborative community of professionals and friends. While these three have received this award, they insisted that we spread the love across the entire Division.
Take Samantha Martinez de Alonso for example. As a human resource representative in University Housing and Dining, Samantha is often the first person a new employee encounters. First impressions are everything, so Samantha regularly goes the extra mile to welcome new folks into the Longhorn family.
Samantha is energetic, joyful, empathetic and knowledgeable. She helps non-English speakers prepare résumés and apply for jobs with the department, while simultaneously offering to take on extra projects. Samantha puts the “human” in “human resources,” and her work—even from a distance this year—has kept her department filled with warmth. Thank you, Samantha.
Kyle St. Nicholas, assistant director in New Student Services, also had to find new ways to welcome. The team had to innovate: How do you welcome students to campus when many are learning remotely?
Kyle started by mentoring and training the Orientation Advisors who welcome 10,000 new Longhorns during UT Orientation. Kyle helped the team pivot due to COVID-19, helping develop the virtual orientation experience—lending his effervescence, deep knowledge, and tireless work ethic to make the program more astounding than anyone could’ve imagined. His impact on the student experience is exponential. Thank you, Kyle.
Finally, Dr. David Vander Straten spent the last six years caring for students alongside the talented, dedicated and caring team at University Health Services. This team of medical professionals sprang into action when COVID-19 emerged, with David leading the creation of a new Designated Respiratory Clinic. Together, the “COVID Crushers” created a space for students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to receive care. David has remained a constant presence at the clinic, working there almost every day since it opened while also taking shifts in the Urgent Care Clinic. His insights and leadership have directly improved the health of our students. Thank you, David.
One more thing…
We have an exciting year ahead with the university embarking on a new strategic planning process, led by President Hartzell. The goal is to be among the nation’s very best public research universities, competitive with elite private universities and preferred by the most talented faculty, students and staff. This process will help us align our vision and identify new and exciting opportunities to pursue over the coming decade. Excellence is at the heart of what we do, and your hard work every day showcases that.
Few people on the Forty Acres understand “what it means to be a Longhorn” better than the team in the Division of Student Affairs. We see it, firsthand, every day.
So, while I’ll be updating you on the progress of this important work over the coming months, please know that your input is welcome. Email me anytime.
Thank you and Hook ’em!
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students