While many regard universities as places for lofty thoughts, the University of Texas at San Antonio is proving that institutions for higher learning can be for more than just abstract ideas and theories. In fact, faculty and students at the Texas university are proving that research, findings, and developments made through study and interactions can not only be commercialized, but also potentially quite profitable.
Take Jordan Kaufmann, for instance, who chose the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for her PhD studies in biomedical engineering and who was recently profiled in San Antonio Magazine. Kaufmann is one of many who is eschewing the Ivy League for a chance to learn from and work with the faculty at Texas universities like UTSA, including Dr. Steven Bailey and Dr. C. Mauli Agrawal. Both Drs. Bailey and Agrawal–cardiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and dean of UTSA College of Engineering, respectively–were integral in aiding Kaufmann not only with her studies, but with her development of a non-leaking stent graft that can be used when treating abdominal aortic aneurysms. Kaufmann is now looking to commercialize her investment–meeting with investors, clinicians, and manufacturers–and has become just another example of how work done at the university level can actually impact the local city economy.
If this sounds like an unusual and isolated case of academia birthing a new business, well, it actually may be the new norm in San Antonio. And it’s only one of the many ways that local universities and their leaders are shaping and benefiting the area’s economy…In early May UTSA president Dr. Ricardo Romo delivered an update to an audience at The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce on the school’s efforts to achieve Tier One status. He describes that effort as not about meeting specific enrollment goals but about creating “centers of excellence” at the university and raising an additional $55 million (for a capital campaign total of $175 million), to help achieve that goal. In the crowd for Romo’s address was Rackspace chairman Graham Weston, whose foundation recently donated enough money for the creation of four new professorships in open cloud computing at UTSA and whose company has hired so many of the university’s graduates that they are known as “Roadrunner-Rackers,” after the school’s mascot.
Romo has compared what is happening in San Antonio as being inspired by the boom of education and innovation seen in Silicon Valley, and businesses are definitely taking notice. Many in the corporate world are looking for universities that can produce graduates ready to jump into the reality of the corporate world rather than ones graduated on ideology and thoughts. And while there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer of what skills are best, especially in a city like San Antonio, areas like biomedical engineering and cyber security seem to not only be a boon for the local economy, but also fields that will continue to see expansion at both the university and corporate levels.
Photo Illustration By Dennis Ochoa