UTSA holds unveiling ceremony for San Pedro I, new downtown facility
The University of Texas at San Antonio officially unveiled its newest downtown facility on Monday. San Pedro I will house the university’s new School of Data Science (SDS) and National Security Collaboration Center (NSCC).
The six-story building sits on the newly finished San Pedro Creek along Dolorosa Street. It features classrooms, multimedia spaces, research labs, and a secure upper-floor facility for government and private partner entities in the NSCC.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy reflected on how San Pedro I will impact the university.
“This merger of data science and cybersecurity is a powerful thing for us as an institution, it’s an important economy for San Antonio, and we’re all in on the business of preparing a future workforce that’s trained, that’s been trained equitably, and is here to stay here and work in our economy,” he said.
Eighmy said the placement of the data science school in downtown San Antonio was purposeful.
“We have a huge effort at UTSA around making our undergraduate education be focused on experiential learning,” he explained. “And if you think about it, putting all of our experiential learning activities here in downtown in the center of the seventh biggest city in the U.S. is just a no-brainer for us.”
Eighmy and other university leaders also highlighted the work soon to begin on San Pedro II, an empty lot across the creek from San Pedro I that UTSA plans to turn into a center of entrepreneurship and innovation within the next three years.
The growth downtown is part of the university’s 10-year phased plan to increase its presence in the city center beyond the UTSA Downtown Campus down Dolorosa Street across IH-35.
“In all honesty, we’re all in on downtown in addition to what we do everywhere else around San Antonio,” Eighmy said.
Local real estate magnate Graham Weston, a founder of Rackspace, Geekdom, Weston Urban, and the 80|20 Foundation, was one of the speakers at the unveiling ceremony. Weston contributed $15 million toward the construction of San Pedro I.
“This influence of data and the translation and the use of data, the use of data intelligence, these things influence so many of our businesses,” Weston said. “And starting today, the world of data science runs through downtown San Antonio.”
The keynote speaker at the event Dr. Uyi Stewart, Chief Data and Technology Officer at data.org, an organization with a mission to democratize the field of data science and “improve lives across the globe.”
He said while data science proves to be a powerful tool to solve problems, the field is inaccessible to underrepresented communities, blunting the tool and keeping it from being as effective as possible.
"We need to localize data and the data scientist,” Stewart said. “Why? Because only those who are closest to the problems are best equipped to address the problems.”
He said only if all people have access to the tool of data science will they be able to solve major global issues.
“There is inequity in the way that the developing world is beginning to gain access and derive benefits from the data that they generate,” he said. “Something’s got to give so that we can create a level playing field and address this systemic inequality around the world. What has to give is data science. Data science can help to solve global systemic challenges — hear me out now, and this is my punchline — only if done right.”
He hopes that UTSA, with its large population of underrepresented students and status as a Hispanic Serving Institution, can work to change who gets to have access to the field of data science and shape the way problems are solved around the world for the better.