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Alumni of Distinction: Cynthia Teniente-Matson

by Matt Jardin  |   

Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson
2021 Alumni of Achievement award recipient Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, M.B.A. ’98, Texas A&M University-San Antonio president. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson)

Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, M.B.A. ’98, will receive the 2021 Alumni of Achievement award at the Alumni of Distinction celebration banquet on April 23.

Business administration alumna Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Ed.D., likes to humorously sum up her life’s trajectory by saying she’s only ever lived, studied and worked in the three biggest states in America.

“Working in three different states for three different systems has been really helpful to me as a leader in higher ed,” said Dr. Teniente-Matson. “When you think about a corporate enterprise, employees are transferred from divisions, sometimes to other states, sometimes to other countries, sometimes to completely different experiences, all to advance the company.”

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Teniente-Matson moved to Alaska as a teenager after her father was stationed at Naval Air Station Adak. When it came time to pursue higher education, Dr. Teniente-Matson wanted to remain close to her family, which in the Aleutian Islands meant a not-so-short 1,400-mile, 7-hour flight to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Originally enrolled as a petroleum engineering major, Dr. Teniente-Matson switched majors when she found more fulfillment in her business and management courses. After earning her B.B.A. from UAF in 1989, she relocated to Anchorage to accept a position at UAA in Procurement Services while working toward her M.B.A.

Serving under then-Chancellor Edward Lee Gorsuch, Dr. Teniente-Matson spent 15 years at UA System, culminating in her role as vice chancellor for administrative services until Gorsuch’s retirement provided her with an opportune time to reevaluate her career options. Dr. Teniente-Matson started to gradually work her way back home, first accepting a position at California State University, Fresno, as vice president while working toward her Ed.D.

After 11 years working in the Cal State system, Dr. Teniente-Matson’s cross-country journey came full circle thanks to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead Texas A&M University’s newest campus in San Antonio as president. Best of all, the job was located a short five miles from her childhood home.

Throughout her career, Dr. Teniente-Matson, who is of Latinx heritage, has made a point to focus on issues of equity and inclusion, working to enact policies at every institution she leads while also delivering keynote addresses nationally on the topics of women’s leadership and Latinx leadership.

“People like myself who rise to a leadership position have a responsibility to create pathways and opportunities for women and people of color to see themselves progressing in their careers and moving the needle forward,” said Dr. Teniente-Matson. “The pandemic has shown us that we were not as far along as we thought we were as a society when it came to equity, and a lot of that inequities within health and digital access is more apparent.”

Despite the distance from Alaska, Dr. Teniente-Matson hasn’t strayed far from her initial studies in business administration from UAA and UAF, as she believes every field allows — and even requires — entrepreneurship.

“There are opportunities for leaders at every level of an organization to be innovative,” said Dr. Teniente-Matson. “We learned a lot during the pandemic and it’s important that we continue to adapt to new workforce needs and the new expectations in the educational space. As an industry, we’re not going back to how it was, and as an educational leader I have a responsibility to shape our trajectory with an equity-minded innovative approach to degree attainment and workforce needs.”

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