Place, People, San Antonio: Transformative Leadership - Honors Professional Development

March 11, 2021

This story is part of a series entitled “Teaching in the Time of Covid.” The series explores how the UTSA Honors College transformed its experiential curriculum into a virtual curriculum and how the pandemic has shaped students’ experiences within the virtual classroom. The curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary work in Service Learning, Professional Development, Intellectual Achievement and Research, Cultural Exploration, Engaged Living, and Skill Development. In this article, we highlight an upper level course in Professional Development. We hope you enjoy the series! – Jill Fleuriet, Acting Dean, UTSA Honors College

In the Fall of 2020, Elisa Perkins taught an Honors Professional Development Course, Place, People, San Antonio: Transformative Leadership. According to the syllabus, the purpose of this course was “to feature, through panel discussions, several leaders in San Antonio who are developing and transforming the city by highlighting their position, interest, and industries impact in San Antonio…Covid-19 {was} the theme that thread{ed} these conversations together over the course of the semester”.

Perkins says that the course “engaged various levels of leadership of industries in San Antonio.” With this course, being virtual has turned out to be a huge advantage. “It’s a lot easier to steal an hour of a CEO or President’s time to hop on Zoom and chat with students. Students were able to meet some pretty big names in the city and gain insight on the leadership characteristics that are helping San Antonio navigate COVID-19 and continue to transform our city.”

One such CEO is Marice McDermott of the Witte Museum. Perkins says he spoke about “what it is like to lead through crisis, their transition to reaching their patrons virtually, and how San Antonio museum leaders collaborated on a survey to get a pulse on the entertainment priorities of San Antonians while the stay at home order was in effect.”

Thirty percent of the students’ final grade was the completion of a research paper where they were required to analyze the evolution of their field through interviews and research. Perkins gave the students a set of questions to address, which forced the students to delve deeply and really think about the professions they were planning to enter.

Josh Chai, a student the course, had the following to say about the class, “The Honors course, People and Places in San Antonio, I took Fall 2020 with Professor Perkins was an exceptional experience/opportunity to network and learn from great leaders here in San Antonio. In the class, we were able to meet many great professionals, hear about their journey into the leadership positions they are within, as well as understand how they dealing with Covid-19 in their organizations. I feel I learned much with regards to leadership styles and how there is not a set-in-stone leadership personality, rather as long as you are driven, ambitious and compassionate with everyone you lead and your projects, success is possible. Overall, this course was amazing having the chance to speak with people such as the CEO of the Witte Museum, the past UN Youth ambassador, a senior manager at Spurs Sports and Entertainment, etc. I am extremely thankful for this course and all other opportunities have had as they will aid in my future development and growth as a leader and I am so excited for what I can accomplish in the future!”