The commitment of Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA) to post-college outcomes is epitomized by its Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. Volunteerism, internships, service learning, civic engagement, and career development are the primary avenues from which the Mays Center enables and empowers A&M-SA students to gain transferable skills, knowledge, and experience. As such, service to the student and community are expertly and intentionally intertwined to develop students into career-ready and community-minded graduates. The success and unique presence of the Mays Center manifests itself in many ways, including as central themes in University and Division of Student Success and Engagement strategic plans, which enable and support post-college outcomes. The 4,200-square-foot center is housed in the Science and Technology building. Texas A&M-SA is a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) serving more than 7,300 students. Its student body is 65.7% female and 77% Hispanic; approximately 60% of students are the first in their family to attend college. The Mays Center helps the university achieve its mission of empowering students with the knowledge and marketable skills that prepare them for rewarding careers, responsible global citizenship, and lifelong learning.
The Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement is the product of a $5 million gift from the Mays Family Foundation with the express purpose of converting classroom knowledge and theory into real-world, in-demand skills. The development, provision, and administration of high-impact, high-quality experiences for the student and community define and drive the Mays Center mission. Some of these opportunities and benefits are as follows:
- Texas A&M-SA’s Paws Up Day of Service is held one day each semester during which local nonprofits host students on their premises for community contribution and learning. By allowing students to choose their interactive service destination, the day of service becomes a personal and meaningful way for them to connect with the local San Antonio community.
- The Mays Center works with faculty and the associated committee to facilitate and support the process of identifying certain courses with a service learning or experiential learning designation.. A designation is active for three years, after which time it is reevaluated to ensure it meets standards as identified by a review committee comprised of faculty and experiential learning staff.
- The University’s Jaguar Voter Engagement initiative builds on A&M-SA’s status in 2021–2022 as one of 21 campuses in Texas—one of 235 nationwide—with the “Voter Friendly” designation. Through bipartisan voter education, students, particularly young voters who are underrepresented, receive support and empowerment. The center has on staff a student democracy engagement manager who shares voting opportunities, creates awareness of upcoming elections, and provides information on candidates. Support is also provided for students and community members interested in becoming voter deputy registrars.
- The Mays Center connects students to the community by supporting and supplementing internships. The center administers these three programs to supplement unpaid internships with either stipends or market-comparable wages: Internship Grant, Career READY Program, and Summer PAID. These programs provide students with access to internship opportunities that may be unrealistic due to a lack of compensation.
- The Mays Center partners with student-employee supervisors to provide trainings, workshops, and other forms of support to help them better support the participating student employees. These student-work positions are expected to incorporate the eight National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) career-readiness competencies—career and self-development, communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, professionalism, teamwork, and technology.
- The Mays Center provides professional development opportunities for student employees through the university’s HIRED! program. HIRED! takes students on a journey that covers personal branding, digital legacy, resumé writing, interviewing skills, networking, and professional etiquette. The NACE competencies are the foundation for the HIRED! program. Students who participate in the HIRED! program show increased confidence in acknowledging and marketing their transferable skills, using those skills to foster connections with employers, and connecting students to opportunities in their fields of interest.
- Texas A&M-SA, represented by the Mays Center, is one of 14 original HSI Career Collaborative members. The collaborative’s signature event is the annual HSI Virtual Career Fair, which offers panels and other educational sessions to help students share their experiences and expertise with employers nationwide.
- The Mays Center worked with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to present its HACU Emerging Leaders’ Summit virtually in 2020. Students participated in the one-day event featuring leadership and career preparation panels and workshops. Texas A&M-SA hosted the event.
This overall combination of opportunities and benefits allows for maximum impact and transformation of participating students and faculty. By championing equity for those communities and students long underrepresented and underserved in postsecondary education, Texas A&M-SA strives to positively impact its community, region, state, and the world.
The Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement has maximized several benefits for the Texas A&M-SA student population and the community beyond in these ways:
- During the most recent academic year, 185 volunteers participated at nine locations for the Paws Up Day of Service.
- To date, 576 students have participated in all or part of the HIRED! program, which culminates with a Capstone Experience and the awarding of a HIRED! Professional Development Certificate.
- This past year, 45 Texas A&M-SA students and alumni registered for in the HSI Virtual Career Fair.
- In 2020, 35 Texas A&M-SA students attended the HACU Emerging Leaders’ Summit.
The intentional and innovative work being done to eliminate completion gaps and strengthen post-college outcomes underscores Texas A&M-SA’s commitment to its students, particularly individuals in underrepresented groups.
The Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement is a hub where service, academic, and professional opportunities intersect with the goal of developing students into career-ready and community-minded graduates, particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds. The center adds new programs annually to inspire and encourage the growth of Texas A&M-SA students, including the Next Steps Career Event and sponsorship opportunities for nonprofit partners. Since 2016, the Mays Center has prepared graduates for the competitive global marketplace by encouraging and offering discipline specific experiences.
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