It has not always been a smooth journey for the passage of the civil engineering program at The University of Texas-Pan American, but the College of Science and Engineering is hopeful that students will be able to have another choice for a major in engineering by the fall semester.
Since 2002, mechanical engineering Professor Robert Jones and other professors and staff have been pulling for the program. Jones, who has written various proposals for it, believes with its inception, the engineering wing of the college will be complete and will keep students from moving to a different university.
“It will make us a full engineering school, with electrical, mechanical plus manufacturing,” said Jones. “Students will have little reason to leave the Valley.”
The degree is pending approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the final step before UTPA can offer classes. With President Barack Obama’s recent push toward more infrastructure spending, the degree will come at a perfect time. Civil engineering will offer students the expertise needed to work in designing and overseeing construction, plus building irrigation fields, roads and bridges.
Dean of the COSE Edwin Lemaster said civil engineering would help the community immensely since the Valley has many firms and employment opportunities for them.
Lemaster added that mechanical engineering is similar to civil engineering, students were either leaving the university or settling for a degree in mechanical, limiting their chances in a variety of fields. The COSE wrote in a proposal that 40 students would major in civil engineering if it were offered.
“Some of those students have already transferred out, if they wanted to stay here they would have to settle for mechanical engineering,” Lemaster said. “We’ve been telling them it’s coming, but it’s been taking a long time to do it.”
Jones stressed that sentiment when it came to finding upstate recruiters interested in UTPA students.
“Civil engineering companies from upstate had trouble recruiting people in the Valley because we didn’t offer this program,” he recalled. “They won’t come down here if we don’t create opportunities for students to learn.”
Carlos Garcia, a mechanical engineering graduate from Donna, said the addition of civil engineering will be beneficial for many students in the Valley since it will not require students to change schools.
“I would like to do it, it’s very interesting and convenient for me, my whole family is here,” said Garcia, who has worked in construction for 10 years.
If the program is passed in time for the fall semester, the college would have a limited time to hire new staff. However Lemaster said that this problem could be solved with online interactive classes from universities like the University of Texas at San Antonio and by hiring local civil engineers to teach.
“I can bring classes down here like I did when electrical engineering got started,” said Lemaster. “We have enough civil engineers, I can have them work for us.”
The major will require 127 hours of credit for students. Students who are interested in the major should contact Lemaster for more information.