Millions of revelers flock to the Alamo, Fiesta Week and the Riverwalk each year, drinking in the city’s hospitality like a cold margarita on a hot Texas night. And it’s this hospitality that sparked the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management to create a UH campus in the heart of downtown San Antonio—the UH Hilton College-San Antonio. The first graduates crossed the stage with their Houston classmates in May 2016.

“It makes so much sense for this college to be in this city. Students who graduate from the UH Hilton College-San Antonio enter an industry they already are passionate about, because they’ve lived it,” said Lisa Hernandez, assistant dean of the college. “Our thriving industry creates opportunities for students to take their classroom lessons into the real world—which, literally, is around the corner.”

The UH Hilton College-San Antonio opened in 2014 and is the only bachelor degree in hospitality offered in San Antonio. Located in the historic Mission Hotel at Sunset Station, near the city’s downtown area, the UH program works in partnership with St. Philip’s College, which has been offering a two-year degree in a variety of hospitality programs. Graduates from St. Philip’s College and other accredited two- or four-year institutions, including Austin Community College and Del Mar Community College, can transfer to the UH program to complete a Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

Hernandez, who was elevated to assistant dean in June 2016, is a longtime resident of San Antonio and an early advocate for UH Hilton College-San Antonio. As an executive director, initially her first charge was to cultivate and engage donors to the college. Her experience with new supporters of the program, including area industry leaders, now will be channeled to move the college into the future.

“We’re expecting an additional 20 students in fall 2016, which will bring our total to 52. We plan to grow to 100 students enrolled by fall 2018,” Hernandez said. “This is a very significant number when you take into consideration that 80 percent of our graduates will stay in the San Antonio area. This is huge for the South and Central Texas region, because new leadership will be educated in the hospitality and tourism industry.”

It’s estimated that San Antonio’s tourism industry employs more than 112,000 people, the third largest industry in the area, underscoring the importance and the potential of this program.

Enrollment is growing. And students are responding.

“My experience at UH Hilton College-San Antonio has been unparalleled,” said new graduate Richard Bundick. “From day one all of the students grew close, like a big family, living hospitality every day.”