Trinity’s students, alumni, faculty, and staff are what make Trinity, Trinity. From leading San Antonio through the pandemic to building backyard greenhouses, Tigers have spent 2020 doing almost everything you could imagine. Here’s what a few of them have been up to.
Ron Nirenberg ’99
Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg ’99 has led the city through the COVID-19 crisis. Elected in 2017, Nirenberg has focused on fighting against inequality and poverty—disparities that have only worsened in recent months. Relying on data from public health experts, Nirenberg collaborated with all branches of the San Antonio government to provide relief while also carefully communicating with the public.
“The overall mission of a leader is to provide hope,” Nirenberg says. “In fact, that’s probably the most important mission.”
With parents who were college professors, chemistry professor Christina Cooley was destined to follow into the family business and has wanted to do so since she was a kid. Now at Trinity, she says she is enjoying her dream job teaching and listening to students. “I am so lucky to teach such engaged, intelligent, and talented students, who are also wonderful people,” she says. “I enjoy getting to know them and help them achieve their goals.”
This fall, Cooley taught Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 2320) and the Chemical Synthesis lab (CHEM 2220) entirely online, which she says has come with a lot of changes and presented some new opportunities. “We are doing focused virtual activities in place of a hands-on lab, which has some advantages in that we can introduce new concepts and material that we weren’t able to cover,” she says.
Nathaniel Castillo Rodriguez ’22
Nathaniel Castillo Rodriguez ‘22 enrolled this past spring at Trinity—the same university where, 30 years ago, his grandfather embarked on a new career in a new country, and set in motion a greater future for his family. His grandfather Santiago Ventura, an immigrant from El Salvador, worked at Trinity’s physical plant for 30 years.
After a few semesters of community college, Castillo Rodriguez applied to transfer to Trinity. He wrote a letter about the connection between his grandfather and the University and was admitted to the Class of 2022, receiving several scholarships to help fund his education. Since starting at Trinity, the mathematics and mathematical finance major has been inspired. “Trinity is about making a full student rather than a person who can do just one thing,” Castillo Rodriguez says.
Asmara Lehrmann ’19
Geologic field work has taken Asmara Lehrmann ’19 from the banks of the Llano River in the Texas Hill Country to the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. From January through March, Lehrmann, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in geology at the University of Alabama, lived and worked aboard the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer, a research ship studying the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. Lehrmann worked the night shift, studying the micropaleontology of sediment cores that the team collects.
Geology seems to run in the family: Asmara’s father, Daniel Lehrmann, Ph.D., is a professor of geosciences at Trinity, teaching courses on paleontology and sedimentary geology. “Even though I tried very hard to be in a different sub-field of geology than my dad, I find that we are still quite similar,” she says. “I think we are both pulled to the beauty of another world revealed to us through fossils and the rock and sediment record.”
Alice Garcia has been working at Trinity’s Provisions on Demand (P.O.D.), located in Mabee Dining Hall, for the past ten years. She helps students shop for everything from snacks and beverages to toiletries and freshly prepared fruit cups.
“I’m like a grandma who has all these kids. The student body is what keeps me going day in and day out,” she shares. “Every day brings something and someone new, and I love getting to know all of the special kids that go to Trinity. Because of social distancing, I feel that the connection I have with students is even more important now because I am here all the time, and they always know that I’m here.”
Political science professor Katsuo Nishikawa has been a part of the Trinity community for 12 years. He currently serves as the director of the Center for International Engagement, where he helps make sure that Trinity students are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to graduate with a global mindset. Despite the challenges of 2020, Nishikawa and the rest of the team have been focusing on working within the current limitations rather than thinking about the things that aren’t possible at the moment. His advice to students is not to wait for tomorrow but rather take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
“I love the power of teaching abroad,” Nishikawa says. “I always think about graduation day. I picture students thinking about how the future will look, and how the doors open toward the rest of the US. What I want them to do is kind of turn around toward Latin America, Asia, Europe, as places where their future is also.”
Grace Hanshaw ’22
While COVID-19 has forced many aspects of campus life online, Grace Hanshaw ’22 still found ways to explore her love of plants. With the help of biology professor James Shinkle, Hanshaw turned her backyard into a field site so she could complete summer research remotely. She built a greenhouse in her yard and converted her dining room table into a lab bench to study how ultraviolet radiation affects plant physiology.
This fall, Hanshaw enrolled in biology professor Kelly Lyons’s plant biology course which was lucky enough to meet in-person. The class explored local sites in San Antonio, examining plant specimens and tagging monarch butterflies. Hanshaw even took home some radishes to grow for a class project. “It’s fun to bring the class home, and even more so because our class gets along really well,” she says. “There’s a sense of community we’ve had to find in each other because that’s the only normalcy we can get.”