National Science Foundation Awards $600,000 to UTEP Engineering
By Ingrid I. Wright
The University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Engineering, in collaboration with the Graduate School, has received a $600,000 grant to create a program to give outstanding undergraduate engineering and computer science students greater access to doctoral degrees.
The National Science Foundation awarded the grant in June to the college to implement a Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) project. The initiative was expected to increase the number of senior engineering and computer science students — particularly Hispanics — and motivate them to pursue doctoral degrees at UTEP and to do so in a shorter timeframe.
S-STEM students will have more opportunities to be advised and mentored, which will help them to transition into Ph.D. programs. They also will have access to professional development, providing them with tools for a successful career.
The college systematically will track the students’ progress toward degree completion. Students with outstanding grade point averages and co-curricular records can receive their doctoral degrees in 4 years instead of 6, said Benjamin C. Flores, Ph.D., acting dean of the Graduate School and the grant’s principal investigator.
A team of staff, faculty and administrators will develop the project’s goals and provide students and faculty with a set timeline for degree completion.
“The College of Engineering has a great track record in promoting first-generation college student success,” Flores said. “This new scholarship program builds on our record by rewarding outstanding senior engineering and computer students and encouraging them to pursue doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines.”
The project has potential to become a model for broader participation by increasing the number of degrees awarded to Hispanic students in a short period of time, Flores said. It also could give emerging research institutions with significant under-represented minority student populations an approach to resolve issues of recruitment, retention and graduation at the graduate level.
“This grant will help us to recruit outstanding students, who would otherwise consider working for the industry or joining graduate programs at other universities, into our doctoral programs,” said Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., associate dean of research and graduate studies at UTEP. “The funds will be used to support at least 21 students during the grant period.”