The University of Texas-Pan American will be in the spotlight in October 2002 when it serves as academic host to one of the nation's most prestigious engineering conferences, the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC).
The official announcement came Friday, Feb. 2 at a news conference at the UTPA International Trade and Technology Building.
Representatives from HENAAC and the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau - which will host the conference Oct. 16-20 - were in attendance. Also present were members of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and several Weslaco middle school students.
"We're really pleased to be able to partner and host a conference like this," said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez. "It is the premier science and engineering organization in the country, and it brings students together with professionals from the corporate world, government and the academic sector. This is a significant achievement, and we're honored to be participating."
The nationally renowned organization recognizes Hispanic excellence in science and technology. In the past, HENAAC has partnered with universities with strong and long-standing engineering programs, such as Rice University, University of Houston and The University of Texas at El Paso.
"What the university has done with its engineering department in just six years is phenomenal compared to other universities," said Anna Mellado, HENAAC director of operations. "We're excited, honored and looking forward to a fabulous year."
Mellado added a year-round pre-college program between HENAAC and UTPA will be created instead of the usual once a year program done with most universities. Also, UTPA and South Padre Island will be regularly featured in Technica, HENAAC's national magazine.
"Our goal with HENAAC is to have all our Fortune 500 companies and government agencies come down to the Valley and see what the university's current and future students are all about," Mellado said. "We also need to encourage more of our young students to be engineers and scientists."
About 1,600 participants are expected to attend the conference at South Padre Island, with science and technology events at UTPA and local schools held before and during the conference. HENAAC is expected to fill at least three hotels and have an economic impact of $2 million.
"The competition was tough, but this will put South Padre Island on the map for national organizations," said Connie Ledbetter, SPI Convention and Visitors Bureau sales director. "We look forward to 2002, and we won't let you down."
Jose Delgado, president of the UTPA SHPE chapter, said the organization is delighted HENNAC is coming to Edinburg.
"This national conference is going to bring a lot of opportunities for people in the Valley," Delgado said. "There's a lot of potential here, and we're going to do this event right."
Some of the HENAAC corporate sponsors include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, IBM, Ford Motor Co., Boeing, Kraft, Texas Instruments, Lucent Technologies, General Motors, NASA, EDS, Chevron, 3M, Motorola, Dell, General Electric, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Delphi Automotive Systems, Abbott Laboratories and Advanced Micro Devices.
"Our engineering students are among the best in the country, and we've proven it in numerous national competitions," said Dr. Ed LeMaster, Department of Engineering chair. "We're excited to have this event highlighting our university, and we hope we don't remain a well-kept secret in the Rio Grande Valley much longer."