Feature Stories

Building Character and Community

Using Her Simple Gifts
Lauren Guido '06 BBA

Lauren Guido

You won't find Lauren Guido sitting idly. As far back as she can remember she's been pitching in to help. As part of a large family that made volunteer service a “family project,” she was always lending a helping hand.

“With all the pressures of life, it's important to be reminded of how blessed our lives are by helping others in need,” says Guido. “And I think it is a university's role to teach students about their responsibility through service. Often, students are wrapped up in the worries and frustrations of their daily lives and they lose track of the simple gifts they have.” And sharing those gifts can make such a big difference in people's lives.”

Fresh out of UIW's H-E-B School of Business and Administration, Guido was selected among 20 candidates as recipient of the Incarnate Word Foundation's first annual Sr. Theresa Daly, CCVI Fellowship. The Fellowship provides a recent college graduate the opportunity to work for one year within a nonprofit organization to promote service as a career.

Guido wants a long career in service and she's off to a running start. She's been in St. Louis, MO, since June enjoying her new role, handling special projects, reviewing grants and conducting research for the Foundation. She credits her business degree and experience at UIW with “providing the right blend of education and true caring through faith, personal attention, and consideration to students' careers after graduation.” But it's her family that is most essential. She says, “They have made me who I am.”

Headed Down the Right Road
Sam Sanders '07 BA

Sam Sanders

Written by Carla Maldonado

When Sam Sanders took a wrong turn nearly three years ago, he had no idea that it would change the direction of his life. It all started when somehow, on the way home to Shertz, TX, he ended up on Austin Highway. That's when he saw the UIW steeple in the distance, which, like a beacon, drew him to campus for a closer look.

He had never seen the campus before. As he walked around, he ran into an old high school friend who listened as Sanders shared his story about how he had decided to defer acceptance into Stanford University so that he could stay close to home -- his mother was ill and his father had recently passed away.

The friend convinced Sanders to meet some of the UIW professors, and by the end of that day, which was already a week into the new fall semester, Sam applied for admission to UIW.

Now a senior, Sanders is considered one of the shining examples of UIW's student leaders: top grades, a dual major in political science and music; president of the SGA, student coordinator for the Emerging Leaders class, a former resident assistant, a former president of the Black Student Association, a member of the jazz band ... well, you get the idea. His latest achievement was acceptance as one of only 20 students nationwide to attend the prestigious Ralph Bunche Summer Institute of the American Political Science Association (APSA) at Duke University this past summer. As an additional kudos, he was invited to present the paper that he wrote there on the inequities of public school funding to the APSA in Philadelphia, PA.

Soft spoken, yet well spoken, Sanders doesn't think he's unusual. He believes everyone is a natural leader. “It's just that we are leaders at different things,” he says. “Some leaders are not seen as such, like parents and other role models. So it's unfair to say that some are leaders and some aren't. I believe that if you make someone smile, then you've led.”

Sanders says the university is the perfect fit for him and he doesn't think he could have experienced so much elsewhere. He says he had great mentors and parents who “showed me if you want to get something done, you can do it yourself. So for me,” Sanders says, “it's not so much thinking about how I can be a leader, but doing the things I want to do and thinking about how I can help others along the way.”

The Marks of Good Character
Diane Gottsman '87 BA, '92 MA

Diane Gottsman

"Our goal is to help people develop the leadership skills and interpersonal mannerisms that are the marks of good character," says alumna Diane Gottsman, founder and director of The Protocol School of Texas. The school customizes protocol and etiquette programs for corporations, universities, non-profit organizations and individuals simply looking to fine-tune their skills.

Gottsman customizes sessions to help people build interpersonal skills that enhance self-confidence, improve communication, and increase leadership potential, thereby giving a competitive edge in the workplace and community. She coaches students and professionals on proper dining, electronic communication, international interaction, networking, business meetings and corporate attire -- all aspects of effective presentation.

Formerly a professional fundraiser and public relations executive, Gottsman says she saw a need for this kind of training as a way to better prepare and position executives for career advancement. “Planning board meetings, galas and special events, I was often asked for advice on how to finesse various interactions. At that point, I decided to make etiquette and protocol training a career.”

Gottsman points out that the programs she teaches have numerous applications for everyday life beyond the boardroom. She says, “You demonstrate who you are by the way you treat other people.”

For more information, visit Gottsman's website at

Part 1 - Leaders by Design

Dr. Angela McPherson Williams

Dr. Angela McPherson Williams

“Anyone with the right opportunity, training and situations to practice can be a leader,” says Dr. Angela McPherson Williams (Dr. Mac), director of the Student Center and Leadership Activities at UIW. “Leadership is about having a vision and being able to relate to and motivate people.”

She should know. Williams, who grew up in a culture of service as a pastor's daughter, wears many campus hats that include teaching the Emerging Leaders course, as well as overseeing the Student Center, campus activities and the university's 40 student organizations and clubs. She says the idea of leaders being born is an old belief, meaning birth was the determining factor. But current research suggests otherwise -- that we aren't necessarily born with innate characteristics or skills to be leaders. Other researchers add that our environment can influence the development of leadership skills and interests.

Leaders by Design photo
Opposite page - Dr. Lydia Andrade (top left, second) accompanies study abroad students in London: (l-r) Rey Sauceda, Lindsey Gates, Sara Cortez, Alan Psencik, Sam Sanders, Samantha Jacoby and (front left) Megan Morales.

The real proof, however, is history; it's all about ordinary men and women with extraordinary capabilities.

“I love the experience at UIW. There are so many opportunities for our student leaders to excel. They can hone their skills, work with faculty and upper-level administrators, and really get to know their constituents,” Williams says.

“What I enjoy most is seeing the transformation of students during their time here. For example, it is an awesome responsibility to represent a group of students through the Student Government Association (SGA) or the Senate and realize that you must speak on their behalf, and put your views on the back burner. They are all challenged to make the university a better place and to encourage participation among the student body. As they get ready to graduate, they are transformed, confident and more secure in their own skin,” she says.

Cultivating New Leaders

Some students, however, are reluctant to test their leadership skills. That's why faculty and staff actively encourage them to get involved.

“We try to seek out students who may not have had many opportunities, so that they can get involved in an organization and see that everyone can contribute. Some are just waiting for someone to say, 'I believe you can be successful in this club or group.' Ultimately, we know these opportunities contribute to the students' educational goals, personal growth and global understanding. They learn that leadership is a process, and that they have what it takes.”
Developing these skills pays off later, too. Williams says studies indicate that students who participate in learning and co-curricular activities are more well-rounded than students who have a 4.0 grade average but haven't shown the ability to excel outside of academics. “Employers support this statement because they recognize the value of working in teams and getting along with others,” she says.

And the university has lots of opportunities for students to build critical team-working skills. For example, work-study programs help students learn about the real-life expectations of leadership and the workforce. Freshmen taking the Emerging Leaders course have the opportunity to become a class coordinator. The SGA offers a chance to effect change that can impact generations to come. Athletes learn the true meaning of being on a team, whether winning or rebuilding. Peer mentors in the Campus Ministry assist with Mass and the spiritual development of other students. And the Campus Activities Board encourages physical, social and mental health by planning activities and events for cultural festivals and holidays.

Students can also study abroad to expand their personal definition of a global society. They can participate in Meet the Mission, where faculty and students form small teams to serve others in the community. There's a student newspaper, radio station, theatre and other performance groups, clubs and special interest groups -- all offer various roles and learning experiences.
“UIW supports students where it matters most -- by modeling effective leadership with university funds and a proven track record of highlighting and celebrating our students,” says Williams.

Turning Passion into Practice

Dr. Lydia Andrade is a prime example of what can happen in the classroom. As assistant dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and political science professor, she enjoys helping students find issues they are passionate about and then motivating them to respond to them. Fortunately her field is the perfect forum to encourage participation and leadership -- something that comes natural to her; she's the child of a political refugee from Portugal and was raised to believe political responsibility is important.

“I encourage my students to just dive in and get involved because they can change things, shape policy and make things the way they want them to be,” Andrade says, explaining that leadership comes in many shapes and sizes.

“Student leaders aren't necessarily out front,” Andrade says. “They can also be the ones who are quiet, easy going, and sit back to listen to the whole conversation before making a comment. And when they do, everyone listens and then says, 'that's it.'”

Constitution Day, a celebration introduced last year, is a prime example of how UIW turned legislation into a nontraditional leadership opportunity that brought out the best in students. This new event was initiated when Congress passed a law requiring institutions of higher learning to increase public awareness of the Constitution by celebrating during Constitution Week in September.

“While most local colleges had an event, such as reading the Constitution, we decided to do something more substantial. Congress said 'you celebrate,' and we did … for two days,” said Andrade. UIW’s Constitution Day fair included booths, games and activities designed to help students, faculty and staff learn more about the Constitution in an entertaining way. Students could register to vote and had a chance to talk to representatives from political parties. A panel discussion with speakers from across the nation explored the status of civil rights and civil liberties in the U.S.

Real-World Experience

Erika Salinas, Andrea Hinojosa, Teresita De Albacalonje register new voters.
Erika Salinas, Andrea Hinojosa, Teresita De Albacalonje register new voters.

Another unusual opportunity takes place annually when UIW, as a member of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, participates in a program to let state legislators meet some of the students receiving the Tuition Equalization Grant. UIW students, along with those from other campuses, lobby in Austin for scholarships for students who go to private schools.

“The students research the issue as well as the legislators from their district, and they make their own appointments and go by themselves to meet with their state representatives. It's a unique way for students to learn about political participation and leadership. They learn how to be influential in the political arena and to help other students,” Andrade says. “We use this as an opportunity to show students that perhaps they need to get more involved.”

The American Youth Foundation Model House of Representatives is another example of real-world experience. This prestigious program brings a select number of students from across the country to Washington, D.C. for a week-long Congressional simulation. This past year UIW was the only university to have two students selected after competing nationwide.

“This program is an example of how we are actively engaged in helping students develop their abilities by helping them to find the perfect match between what they want to do and what excites them,” Andrade explains. “Leadership is about getting involved in whatever you're passionate about. Fraternities, the Black Student Association and other clubs are all great training grounds for leadership, which includes learning things like budgeting, planning and time management. Just think of the skills students are developing for the workplace.”

Andrade, like Williams, believes UIW is an ideal environment for helping students grow and develop. “A student may have ideas, be creative and have interests, but may not start off with the skills or confidence that enables them to say, 'let me be in charge.' But given the opportunity, they can learn.”

“What we do here is build confidence and skills that enable students to lead in any venue they are passionate about,” Andrade concludes. “We're here to teach students that they can succeed and be influential in many ways.”

How You Can Help

Alumni and friends of UIW can be a vital part of the university's tradition of excellence in leadership development. Your participation is the ideal way to show students how to lead by example:

Go online to check out other activities of interest: To get involved, contact the Student Center at (210) 829-6034 or Alumni Relations at (210) 829-6015.