EDINBURG - The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved courses leading to a master of science degree in mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineering at UT Pan American during its meeting in Austin last week.
UTPA - which offers the only accredited manufacturing engineering program in Texas - joins Kingsville and San Antonio in offering the only engineering graduate degree programs in South Texas.
"With this degree, UT Pan American continues to expand both its graduate degree and research programs," said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez. "Additionally, this adds to our already strong program to support expanded professional education for a variety of industries.
" With this degree program in place, industries will be more willing to locate here, knowing that their engineering staff can continue to grow professionally and meet the challenges of working in a global economy."
Nevárez said the new master's program also supports the University's efforts to make initiatives such as the Cross Border Institute for Regional Development (CBIRD) a reality.
CBIRD is a strategic effort designed to strengthen infrastructures, create new technologies and build public-private partnerships benefiting the U.S.-Mexico border region.
A recently created UTPA CBIRD Program will provide the strategic planning to establish a baseline to help the region develop into a new high-tech corridor.
Scheduled to begin this fall, the new master's degree program is driven by demand in the area for expanded graduate education.
A graduate program has been a part of the University's overall plan for the Department of Engineering since 1992.
"It's a giant leap forward in our progression to build the engineering program," said Dr. Edwin W. LeMaster, chair of the Department of Engineering. "It's going to better equip us to meet the needs of the engineering community in the Rio Grande Valley."
The department started offering graduate-level courses in fall 1997. Approximately 50 practicing engineers are registered for the courses.
"This is very exciting," said Dr. Jacob Jen-Gwo Chen, dean of the College of Engineering. "Through this degree program, engineers will be able to get updated knowledge about their specific engineering discipline, get a chance to use and learn about new technology and enhance their management and high-tech skills."
The new program offers the University new learning and research opportunities, Chen said. For example, the department may offer courses in robotics and project management.
Students will also be encouraged to pursue research opportunities, which in turn enhance the department's and the University's reputation.
Additionally, he sees the new program as a way to boost the rate of Hispanic engineers.
Currently, only about three to four percent of engineers in the United States are Hispanic.
The new program also provides engineers with an opportunity to enhance their promotion and career choices.
Yet another draw to prospective engineering graduate students is the state-of-the-art $23 million, 122,000-square-foot Engineering Building.
Completed in 1996, the building features a 250-person auditorium, 18 labs, classrooms and faculty offices. The labs are designed to allow students hands-on experience on equipment as undergraduates.
"We're going to better utilize the Engineering Building and its equipment through the master's degree program," LeMaster said. "We already have everything we need in place, including 17 Ph.D. faculty."
Under the approved degree program, students will have three options.
The first is a course work-only degree with 36 semester credit hours of class work.
The second is a professional practicum degree with 30 hours of course work and six hours of practicum.
The third option is a thesis degree with 24 hours of course work and a minimum of six hours of master's-level thesis work.
For more information on the new graduate program in engineering, contact LeMaster at 956-381-3522.