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How UTSA goes the extra mile for Hispanic and Latinx students

The university has garnered national recognition for its efforts in helping Latinx students overcome barriers.

SAN ANTONIO — A big part of Hispanic heritage is remembering the past, but it’s arguably just as important to look to the future. 

That’s why the University of Texas at San Antonio goes out of its way to help its Hispanic and Latinx students build futures they can be proud of.

A fan kicks on as Jonathan Garibaldi boots up an old-looking Dell PC inside UTSA’s Cyber Security lab.

“When you try to start the computer, it tells you you’re infected by the coronavirus,” he said.

Don’t worry, the computer didn’t have any issue social distancing. "Corona Virus" is the name of the ransomware he just infected it with.

“Even in San Antonio you hear a bunch of cases of ransomware affecting a lot of companies,” Garibaldi said. “This is kind of the stuff you see.”

As a computer engineering masters student, he is gathering information on how similar viruses behave and can be prevented.

“What we’re trying to prevent is even those malwares to even ever touch the computer or have an AI model to develop to detect those ransomwares in early detection,” he said.

Garibaldi is a first-generation college student. He was able to take advantage of a program called the (CONCISE) Project, geared toward helping minorities pursue careers in cyber-security.

“Just having UTSA support us Hispanics and grant us these opportunities, – whether it’s funding, whether it’s just even small internships or even just education itself, admission – that is huge.”

“Really we’re here with a mission to educate them, to advocate for them and with them as well as support them in their classes.”

Damaris Ibarra is the assistant director of the Dreamers Resource Center at UTSA. It’s part of their effort to be a Hispanic-thriving campus. It’s the sort of effort that has gained them the Seal of Excelencia in 2020 for their commitment to Latinx student success.

“We are showing to our colleagues that our Hispanic and Latinx students are really on the roadmap.”

Garibaldi says the opportunities UTSA has presented him with as a Hispanic student have changed the course of his life.

“If it wasn’t for those opportunities, I probably would be doing something different,” he said. “And I’m actually happy that now I’m living the dream.”

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