In an interview celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Texas A&M University-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson talked about her vision of building an inclusive culture by integrating conversations about equity among students, faculty and staff.
“I challenge everyone ... certainly within our university community, to think about our voices, to amplify our voices, that we act as visible role models and lead with a respectful attitude,” Matson said in an hour-long interview with Christina Cutlip, Senior Managing Director at TIAA.
Watch full video of the interview here then scroll down for more of the story:
Cutlip came to the San Antonio campus as part of TIAA’s Power of One interview series, aimed at educating TIAA employees. TIAA is a retirement provider of financial services for people in academic, research, cultural, medical and governmental organizations. During the Oct. 13 webcast of the interview, TIAA hosted watch parties for employees in Charlotte, Denver, San Francisco and New York City.
Cutlip asked Matson to explain how an institution can build a diverse culture.
“Our university is a majority minority institution, so I actually think about this a lot in terms of what we are doing and how we are delivering instruction,” Matson replied. “What I have come to understand more and more is the need for our community to embrace what we know, and what we don’t know. And there is this wide spectrum of culture competence, and culture fluency that sometimes we assume that we have a strong diverse population.”
But Matson said there needs to be a continual conversation about equity throughout the university.
“I formed a President’s Commission on Equity...to begin to have the conversation. Their charge is to look at equity issues...and to create a vision and a view for equity-mindedness, and to make sure that those type of conversations are...integrated throughout.”
Matson said she recently announced President's Commission on Equity Fund. “We knew that we needed to make funding available for programs for students, for faculty and for staff. We've done that,” she said.
“We have to learn about other cultures, other people's experiences, and we need to build awareness of our differences,” Matson said.
“All of these elements are what come together to build an inclusive culture on any community, but certainly its very important for a university community.”
Matson said Texas A&M-San Antonio students can contribute to society by being active voters and through greater community involvement.
“If we lose sight of respect, we will never be able to engage in civil discourse,” she said.
Matson said education affects a student’s ability to build wealth, and become more affluent.
One in three students at Texas A&M San Antonio live below the poverty line, she said.
Structuring the university to help these students cross the finish line to their bachelor’s is always at the forefront of her mind, she said.