Team assembled to visit New York college for urban outreach tactics

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The goal is to help build educational opportunities for students and the community.

By Wally Perez

This college is sending a team to New York this week to learn how students here can get involved in revitalizing downtown San Antonio and the neighborhood around campus.

The team is visiting Guttman Community College in New York City, where students can major in urban studies and learn about urban renewal.

President Robert Vela announced the proposed initiative during a College Council meeting Feb. 9. Vela said the team consisted of Richard Farias, interim vice president of student success; Lisa Zottarelli, chair of history, economics, anthropology and political science; history Professor Jonathan Lee; and architecture Chair Michael Connor.

Farias approached Vela about the idea in October, mentioning Guttman’s urban studies program.

“I heard about Guttman three years ago as they were starting to get off the ground, and I liked the idea because of where SAC is located in the city, the community and the redevelopment and growth in our own backyard,” Farias said.

Because of these factors, Farias said he thought it would be neat to look at Guttman’s model and see if the team can replicate it here.

“Their focus is on their community and a thriving and sustainable New York City,” Farias said.

They have integrated those principles into their curriculum in a way that uses New York City as a laboratory by providing service learning opportunities that allow students to work with people active in the city’s government, community and nonprofit agencies.

“We thought, ‘what if we took that focus and brought it here?’ Both in our curriculum for classes like history and political science and maybe other programming such as service learning or civic engagement opportunities,” Farias said.

The team, which is still in the planning and research phase, will be visiting Guttman Thursday-Saturday.

Vela is on board with Farias’ idea after discussions and decided that he wanted to do this here since this city is primed for urban renewal, which has been happening over the last decade, Farias said.

“We’re close to a lot of neighborhoods that need help, such as Tobin Hill and Beacon Hill,” Farias said.

A goal is to help build educational opportunities for students and opportunities for the college to be involved with our community, he said.

“We don’t want to be looked at like an ivory tower that’s not accessible, we’re supposed to be accessible; we want to be accessible,” Farias said.

It will be a while before the team has a specific plan since these ideas are still a work in progress, he said.

The team had their first meeting in early February, where they planned their trip to Guttman and brainstormed ideas for the program.

The vision is for people in the city to see this college as a hub for all the things that could be great about living, working or being educated in urban spaces, he said.

“We would like to really build up in every way shape or form, not just buildings or community gardens, but the human factor; the well-being of people living in an urban environment,” Farias said.

Farias is open to students or faculty who have suggestions about the initiative, and can be contacted at


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