It sounds like a minor detail. But the next time you go to class or to a meeting or event at UT Health San Antonio, are people left standing or does everyone have a desk or chair? Do the microphone and AV equipment work? Is the room size-appropriate and functional? It’s not a coincidence.
Meet Sonia Lopez and Judith Villarreal, members of Facility Space Planning and Real Estate/University Scheduling department. They are the experts in scheduling classrooms and meeting rooms for hundreds of classes, grand rounds, lectures, lunches, and other events.
“You have to work with everyone –the university police, housekeeping staff, and audio-visual technicians. Each meeting has different needs, and every detail must be thoroughly reviewed before any reservation is made,” said Lopez, a Chicago native who has worked at UT Health San Antonio for the past 20 years.
“We’ve arranged everything from a large medical symposium to a small study group,” said Villarreal, a native of the Rio Grande Valley who’s been working alongside Lopez for the past eight years. “We reserve lecture halls, classrooms and the breakout classes for all five schools of UT Health San Antonio,”
“Back in 1999, we had a two-story-high metal wall that was only accessible with a flight of stairs to schedule and display all the classes and grand rounds,” Lopez said. “Each class was represented with magnetic cardboard in different colors and shapes. The whole office looked like a war room, and it looked really intimidating.”
Villarreal said, “it’s mind-boggling to imagine how we scheduled everything without computers a decade ago, but we still managed to schedule every classroom.”
Lopez said that digital programs such as R-2-5 have helped improve efficiencies in booking spaces throughout the UT Health San Antonio campus.
Lopez and Villarreal credit their success to co-workers who trained and supported them over the last two decades. Rosa Ramirez, who has been working at UT Health San Antonio for the last 25 years, is one of those team members, but there are many others.
“UT Health Police Department, the housekeeping staff, the AV technicians, and the academic coordinators work with us constantly. We’re so lucky to have such a supportive group of people,” Villarreal said.”
“We can count on everyone 24/7. I really enjoy working with them,” said Lopez.
Their success does not come without challenges, though. Lopez pointed out that “we must learn to smile and juggle multiple activities. There are days that we receive over 50 emails. We just have to smile, remain patient and review every detail.”
“Even weather conditions negatively affect an event sometimes,” she added. “The meeting space must be able to allow for shorter walks from parking in adverse weather.”
“Academics always takes precedence over non-curricular activities when we book spaces. We do not want our students to be late to their classes or not able to join their breakout sessions because a room is too far or confusing to locate while there’s construction in progress,” added Villarreal.
“Larger classrooms are always a challenge to schedule. We have over 220 medical students and 200 dental students. While a large lecture hall can accommodate all students at once, smaller breakout rooms are necessary. These classes represent challenges in terms of sheer size and logistics,” said Lopez.
When asked about the most memorable event they helped reserve, Lopez said, “UT Health San Antonio hosts an annual trick-or-treat event for preemie babies that were born at University Hospital. That’s the most memorable event that we ever booked. Seeing these toddlers healthy and happy in their Halloween costumes brings joy and tears of pride to us.”
Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted the efforts of supporting staff who work behind the scenes. But thanks to the dedication and hard work of people like Sonia Lopez and Judith Villarreal, UT Health San Antonio can continue to achieve its missions. They make sure that every student has a desk and a chair ready before a class, and every lecturer has the proper equipment and space for their presentation. Making lives better is the big picture, but it’s also the sum of all the little details.
Thank you, Ms. Lopez and Ms. Villarreal, for making all of our lives better, one detail at a time.