David Espinoza found his professional calling with UIW’s Ettling Center for Civic Leadership (ECCL). Joining the center as a graduate assistant in 2014, he now serves as the ECCL’s student engagement coordinator.
“The Ettling Center for Civic Leadership is an amazing opportunity to have here at the university because it’s engaging,” said Espinoza. “It’s engaging students not only in service but teaching them how to be leaders in the community.”
Founded by Sr. Dorothy “Dot” Ettling, CCVI, in partnership with CHRISTUS Health in 2013, the ECCL aims to develop student leaders who promote social justice through partnerships with diverse local and global communities. The center provides students access to over 35 programs of service and engagement with organizations such as the San Antonio Food Bank, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio and Ella Austin Community Center, among others.
Espinoza said his job is to be the lead point in making sure students have what they need to be successful in terms of service by identifying opportunities, collaborating with community partners and connecting students to service-oriented programs.
“Being that students are required to complete 45 hours of service prior to their application of graduation, we want them to feel comfortable,” he said. “We want them to know that they can do this. This is a responsibility, but they can do it with great validation and learn something from it.”
To make the process more convenient, the ECCL has now incorporated a digital system, Cardinal Sync. Students can document service hours and easily locate service opportunities and the center can obtain information from community partners.
“We have collaborated with a lot of local partners as well as regional partners to really emphasize their needs. And so when we have a one-stop shop, that really allows students to find information and learn about these organizations,” said Espinoza. “We always want that for our students. We don’t want them to feel lost when they’re trying to find opportunities.”
He said the center encompasses more than just the value of service. “We hold our core values, the Mission, true each and every day. Our biggest core value is obviously service, but we hold truth, we hold education, innovation and all of the university’s values. We incorporate those into our center and we want to encourage our students to thrive and be productive citizens in the community.”
Espinoza, who graduated with an MAA in adult education from UIW, said returning to his alma mater to work at the ECCL is inspiring, but humbling.
“Being an alum just means so much because I get to come back to the university and see how it’s growing,” he said. “I’m humbled that I get to do this every day. I love what I do, serving the university, the students, and the community.”
For Espinoza, the experience to serve with students firsthand brings a deeper understanding of the student experience. “We work side by side. And so that gives you a better background to support them as they’re going through their university experience. We know who they are, so it’s not just I know you as a student. I know you as a friend. What is your need to be successful during this time as a student? And we support that.”