UTEP aids grad students from London stranded in U.S. due to volcano’s eruption
The University of Texas at El Paso <http://www.utep.edu/> has become an academic lifeboat for almost 60 international graduate students and faculty who were marooned in El Paso because of air travel restrictions brought on by the April 14 eruption of the Iceland volcano.
Professors and students from Imperial College <http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/>, a science-based institution in London known for its teaching and research, will use UTEP’s resources to prepare for final exams until their scheduled departure to the United Kingdom, April 29 and 30.
UTEP is the only university in the country with a predominately Mexican-American student population (more than 80 percent). The research university in Far West Texas also is renowned for its Bhutanese architecture (http://www.bhutan.gov.bt/government/index_new.php).
Imperial College’s leaders reached out to UTEP officials this past Monday after they were told that flights to England were cancelled as a result of the dangerous ash-laden skies over much of Europe.
Many of the students were concerned because they have projects due and final exams scheduled the week of May 3. For some, doing well on these final exams is crucial for their future job prospects.
UTEP has given the visiting students computer access at the Geology Building and UTEP Library. It also made its recreation facilities available to the visitors, including Memorial Gym and the Swimming and Fitness Center.
“We are very grateful to the University,” said Cedric John, assistant professor of carbonate sedimentology at Imperial College and one of the group’s leaders. “Everyone has been so nice to us. Things are quite exceptional.”
The students came to the UTEP campus Wednesday after spending most of the past few days in their Holiday Inn hotel rooms near the El Paso airport. The students broke into groups and were given tours Wednesday by UTEP geology graduate students of the places they could utilize on campus, such as the library, the Undergraduate Learning Center, the Geology Building, as well as the University Bookstore. The delegation includes students from England, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand and Venezuela.
“We are pleased to be able to share UTEP’s campus resources with our British colleagues and their students,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “If this unfortunate situation were reversed, we’re confident that the university community in the UK would likewise extend a helping hand to stranded UTEP Miners. We wish our guests safe travels home and hope that they will carry with them good memories of UTEP and the Paso del Norte.”
The Department of Geological Sciences, one of the University’s oldest departments, trains the next generation of educators and geoscience professionals in the backdrop of the El Paso region's rich and unique geologic setting.
Peter Alison, Ph.D., professor of earth sciences at Imperial College, gave a special Tuesday seminar for UTEP’s geology graduate students on ancient seas.
UTEP professors Terry Pavlis and Laura Serpa opened their West Side El Paso home to the visitors for a cookout because the couple knows what it’s like to be stranded. They lived in New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina displaced them.
“Lot’s of people helped us out,” Pavlis said. “Now these students and faculty are stuck and we’re just trying to make a stressful situation easier.”
The Imperial College students started their journey March 29. They studied rock formations in Green River and Moab, Utah and attended an American Association of Petroleum Geologists conference in New Orleans before arriving in El Paso on April 17 to study carbonate minerals in the Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad, N.M.
The students are concerned with their predicament, but they have used technology – e-mails, cell phones and Skype – to contact family and friends. Many of them echoed a message of gratitude for the hospitality of El Pasoans and the UTEP community.
Imperial College students shared many stories of their encounters with local El Pasoans who empathize with their misfortune and suggested tourist sites and restaurants to visit.
“People are really friendly here,” said Jenny Bromley, a graduate student in petroleum geosciences from Imperial, a college founded in 1907 with an enrollment of more than 13,000 students.
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)
El Paso, Texas
Students and faculty from Imperial College, London, assembled in UTEP’s Geology Reading room
Photos taken by Laura Trejo, University Communications, The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)