UIW’s Ettling Center Recognized by Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities

February 23, 2024

The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), an organization that aims to strengthen and promote the Catholic identity and mission of its member institutions, recently conducted a landscape survey of Catholic higher education best practices in civic learning and democracy education. Through this process, the University of the Incarnate Word was chosen as one of three institutions recognized and showcased for its best practices in work that educates students to become productive and thoughtful citizens.

This recognition comes about from efforts being continuously made at UIW’s Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability (ECCLS), whose mission, in the spirit of Christian service, is to develop global leaders who promote social justice in partnership with members of our diverse global community. ECCLS founder Sr. Dorothy “Dot” Ettling envisioned that the Center would promote the common good for those most in need. Though she passed away in 2014, her vision lives on – today, the Ettling Center offers 35 different programs that help expand civic opportunities for students by focusing on educational equity, anti-bullying, diversity, voting, mentorship and more. These programs all contributed to the Center being honored by ACCU.

Teofilo Reyes Jr., assistant director of Leadership and Global Engagement in the ECCLS and doctoral student in the Dreeben School of Education, presented in Washington D.C. at the ACCU’s annual meeting on the Center's global service initiatives through the lens of advancing social teachings to address the needs of the global community and facilitating transformative experiences. Through this opportunity, he was able to highlight how the ECCLS offers the distinct advantage of covering 97% of the cost of study abroad service-based and cultural immersion student trips.

“With the 97% financial sponsorship, we remove those barriers of entry for a lot of our students,” he explained during his presentation. “They don’t have to worry about funds, food or lodging. They get to focus on the service while they travel and get to embrace everything without concern.”

Students of all backgrounds are eligible for the opportunities offered by ECCLS, because the Center recognizes that the strengths of students can be demonstrated in different ways aside from their financial situations or academic standing.

“Many students come back so much more motivated because they were treated with dignity and humanity while they were traveling. They weren't just looked at as an arbitrary number or as if their worth was tied to their GPA and other factors. These trips give them the opportunity to show off their capabilities,” shared Reyes.

In addition to sharing how the ECCLS is excelling, he also hoped to provide information on how other Catholic higher education institutions can adopt such practices for the greater benefit of their own students.

As a UIW alumnus, Reyes felt that his journey came full circle as he presented on the statistics of students currently being served by the University and ECCLS.

“My first slide after my introduction slide was numbers of the school,” he shared. “I started off with positive numbers, but when I brought up the other metrics on financial security, food insecurity, etc., I was describing me 15 years ago as a UIW student in 2007. These numbers are still relevant today to the students we serve now.”

Going forward, he keeps his past experiences, the benefits of higher education and the vision of Sr. Dorothy “Dot” Ettling in mind as he strives to transform student lives for the better. To him, it only takes one person and their vision to make a positive impact.

Learn more about the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainabilitiy.