Discovery Park is located 5 miles from the UNT main campus and is the North Texas region’s largest research park dedicated to the sciences, technology, and engineering. Being off campus for a majority of their week, the students at Discovery Park aren’t always able to attend the events and activities at the main campus. This is where Student Affairs comes in. Sergio Renovato, the Assistant Director of Student Affairs at Discovery Park, has created and implemented programs for the students at Discovery Park to enjoy. This way, they don’t feel like they’re missing out because of classes!
Renovato grew up in League City, Texas. He first attended College of the Mainland Community College and then transferred to the University of Houston-Clear Lake. However, he didn’t feel like it was very successful.
“I quit going to school and started helping around the house by working full time and I did that for a few years. Then, before I knew it, I was 25 years old, still living with my parents and nothing was going right,” Renovato said. “A friend of mine decided that he wanted to transfer to go to a university. He asked me if I’d go with him and we started exploring schools. We found Midwestern State in Wichita Falls that had a good business school for me and a good art program for him, so that’s where we ended up.”
Graduating from Midwestern State University, Renovato received his BBA and MBA in International Business. After graduating from MSU, Renovato did not take a break from college. He decided to apply for a PhD in higher education at UNT and was accepted. However, a few years into the program, his health started to decline.
“I didn’t move a lot, I didn’t exercise a lot, my health declined, and I started fighting Type 2 diabetes. That’s when I stopped doing the program to focus on my health,” Renovato said. “I ended up getting a masters degree instead because I wanted to focus on myself. Before I realized it, I’ve been here for 14 years at the University; starting off at the Syndicate, then moved my way up to UPC, and now here at Discovery Park with the Center of Student Affairs.”
Back when it was “a little tiny space”, Renovato was managing the Syndicate. Before he was hired, he was told that they didn’t have much programing besides Wednesday Night Live Bands and Thursday Night Jazz Combo. They wanted him to fill the space with programing.
“I started doing small events in there and started talking to student orgs about having their events in there, for free,” Renovato said. “Before I knew it, with the combination of the poker program, billiards program, watching parties, things we could do cheaply, and the programs that we brought in for student orgs, we had the place booked Monday to Thursday night, every night, for the entire semester.”
Working on a college campus, crazy things are bound to happen! Having to be around students and attend the events he has worked on, Renovato has experienced some funny and outrageous moments during his 14 years at UNT. His funniest moment happened during the J-Cole concert in 2014.
“I think the funniest thing was when we worked the J-Cole concert. His drummer needed socks and it wasn’t on the rider or anything like that. It just happens that he wanted socks. He didn’t have socks. He didn’t like his socks. He wanted new socks,” Renovato said. “So my GA, at the time, comes up to me and says, “Sergio what do I do? He wants socks! Do I go to Walmart and buy some or what do we do?” At that time, I don’t know why it happened, but I brought a lot of extra clothes because I knew we were going to be working all day, setting up for the concert, doing the concert, and tearing down the concert. We had been working since 4 in the morning that day. But I brought extra clothes and I happened to have brought new socks, so I gave the man my socks. I didn’t even think twice about it! I got out my duffle bag and said, “Here, how many pairs do you need?”. I think I gave him two pairs of socks and it was just the most random thing. It was like I couldn’t believe that just happened, but it did. It’s working with people when the weirdest things that happen.”
Working at UNT for 14 years is a long time. Renovato has formed bonds and relationships with the staff and students here. His most memorable moment was the fraternity, Omega Delta Phi’s 10 Year Anniversary Gala. He has advised the fraternity, who started as a colony, when he started at the Syndicate. He has been their advisor, along with the sorority, ever since. Renovato is an alum of the fraternity and has been a part of Greek Life since attending MSU.
“They sought me out to be their advisor and I’ve been with them since the beginning. This past homecoming, we had a 10 Year Anniversary Gala and I was their keynote speaker,” Renovato said. “It was great, to see all the faces and all the students come back and see all the things that they’ve accomplished. To me, that’s what being in higher education is all about. You have to serve students and work with student organizations. You get the best out of them and prepare them for their careers and help further themselves in life.”
He has worked on programs at UNT such as UPC’s Camel Day in 2015, DJ Wars, and many more. When working under the director, Zane Reif, Renovato learned very important lessons about confidence and taking pride in his work.
“He taught me to be more confident in the things that I do. I like to think of myself as a very humble person and I give credit to a lot of people. I think I’m always as good as the people that surround me and I work with,” Renovato said. “I don’t give myself a ton of credit because I believe that I’m paid to do a job and that’s what I do. He guided me to accept the fact that these things wouldn’t happen without me and I need to allow myself to give myself a pat on the back, and now I feel more comfortable in that aspect.”
Everyone has a goal, a vision, a dream. For Renovato, it is to establish or run, an organization to help people get into a college. Coming from a background where he wasn’t privileged and had to work very hard, he knows not everyone gets an opportunity to go into higher education and unlock their potential.
“What I’ve always wanted to do is create some type of foundation to help support students who might not have every opportunity to go or are on the cusp of going into college. For that organization to start a network between all the students that we’ve helped, once they get into their careers to see if they would donate back into the foundation so we can continue this growing effect,” Renovato said. “Right now, we kind of do that with the fraternity and sorority, where the alumni give back a little and the current actives are able to do a little more than what we did in the past. So, I see the effect there, but I’ve always wanted to do it at a larger, grander scale.”
With an office, most people like to go all out, customizing and putting their own spin on it so they can feel right at home. But Renovato can describe his office in just three words, “plain and simple.” For him, if something isn’t functional or doesn’t serve a purpose, it is not needed!
“I’m not a big decorator, as you can see, my stuff is very functional to me. It’s what I need, it’s not exactly more than that. I have my refrigerator, my coffee maker, my desk, my computer, and my two screens. I have pictures of my son, those are the most important things to me, and also my family. That’s about it,” Renovato said. “Everything is just functional, and that’s the way I like it. I don’t decorate very much because I like to describe myself as a guy, just a regular guy with my knuckles dragging on the ground, and that’s kind of how I treat myself. It’s the way I’ve always been.”
“My favorite thing has always been these two hard hats. One is from the building of the Union and one is from the building at Apogee Stadium,” Renovato said. “I’ve always wanted to collect them. Simply because I want to let people know that I’ve been here through the building process and I’ve seen it be approved to be built. I’m trying to collect one for the new biomedical wing here at Discovery Park.”
Sergio Renovato has continued to serve purely to help and benefit students. His impassioned work to give back to current students is what motivates him everyday. He has struggled, dealt with hardship, and picked himself back up again. To find out about events hosted at Discovery Park by Renovato and his team, make sure to view the UPC calendar and stay current on the Union social media.