Posted on October 14, 2019 by Michelle Skidmore

Oct. 14, 2019 — The University of Texas at San Antonio today announced plans to establish an innovative new college dedicated to advancing human health. The College for Health, Community and Policy will focus on an overarching concept of health, and it will transform the way the university prepares students for modern, population-based health care settings in which physician scientists, nurses, therapists, technicians, social workers, researchers, psychologists, nonprofits and policymakers work together to improve the health, wellness and well-being of our communities at all levels.

The new college will officially launch in January 2020 and will enroll students beginning in fall 2020.

"Complex health issues call for comprehensive and innovative solutions, particularly when it comes to health concerns that impact communities—such as nutrition and obesity, mental health, food and water safety, or substance abuse," said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. "The College for Health, Community and Policy will capitalize on UTSA's assets to create bold new opportunities to impact health policy at a grand scale."

The new college is an outcome of the Human Health Initiative, launched by UTSA in November 2018. The charge to the initiative task force, set forth by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy, was to consider student interests, workforce needs and research opportunities and then to recommend a college organizational structure to facilitate student success and career preparation as well as transdisciplinary research and funding opportunities.

The task force included representatives from UTSA, UT Health San Antonio, and the UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health, which has a regional campus in San Antonio.

“This was a highly collaborative, faculty-led effort, and I'm grateful to all who took part in this yearlong process for their energy and creativity,” said Espy. “The UTSA faculty who will be part of the new college are enthusiastic about working together and with our partner institutions. Most important, however, is how the College for Health, Community and Policy will benefit UTSA students. Aligning our health-related programs within the new college will help current and prospective students navigate their options for pursuing health-related careers and give them a more thorough understanding of the social determinants and other factors that contribute to human health, wellness and well-being.”

The College for Health, Community and Policy will comprise all the academic departments currently in the College of Public Policy—criminology and criminal justice, demography, public administration and social work—as well as the departments of psychology; sociology; and health, kinesiology and nutrition. Under the new college, the latter department will be restructured and renamed as the Department of Kinesiology, while the combined B.S. in nutrition/M.D.S. in dietetics studies will be administered directly by the college. Finally, a new department, the Department of Public Health, will be created to house the B.S. degrees in health and public health. The changes were approved by The University of Texas System in August and acknowledged by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Building on the strong legacy of the College of Public Policy, Espy said, the for in the name of the College for Health, Community and Policy intentionally reflects the strong role in advocacy that will continue in the new college model. In total the college will include more than 175 faculty and more than 6,800 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates through those departments.

In addition to better supporting students who may be interested in pursuing careers related to health, the department structure of the college is intended to create new opportunities for research across traditional disciplines, both within UTSA and with external partners.

“UT Health San Antonio and UTSA have long enjoyed a close partnership that has fostered numerous research and academic collaborations, such as our joint graduate programs in biomedical engineering and our Ph.D. in translational science,” said Jacqueline L. Mok, vice president for academic, faculty and student affairs at UT Health San Antonio and a member of the Human Health Planning Advisory Task Force. “My colleagues and I are excited to continue that work with UTSA faculty and leaders in support of the new college to maximize our synergies to promote both transdisciplinary research and student success.”

UTSA is conducting a national search for the college's founding dean and has named a search advisory committee of UTSA faculty, staff and student representatives as well as community partners. Executive search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates is assisting with the search process.

“We are excited to begin the search process and expect to have a founding dean in place in spring 2020,” said Espy. “There still is a great deal of transition work to be done, and to fully realize the promise of the new college, we need an experienced leader who embraces this broad conceptualization of health and who can lead the college in coalescing a shared identity and vision among faculty, staff and students for the benefit of the university and the San Antonio community.”

To further engage community stakeholders in planning for the college, UTSA will host a community charette, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 19. Details will be forthcoming.

— Michelle Skidmore