The University of Texas-Pan American President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas and Dr. Kofi Lomotey, president of Fort Valley State University, a historically black college in Georgia, signed a cooperative agreement Sept. 27, during the opening day of the 2004 Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week, to offer a dual degree program between the two institutions.
Located approximately 100 miles south of Atlanta in the City of Fort Valley, FVSU is part of the University System of Georgia and had a fall 2003 enrollment of 2,537 students.
Dr. Edwin LeMaster, interim dean of UTPA's College of Science and Engineering, said in a ceremonial signing held in July at Fort Valley that the development of a partnership between the two traditionally Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) is exciting.
"Both institutions will profit by having students enter high demand technological fields such as engineering. The ultimate beneficiaries are going to be the students who simultaneously complete bachelor's degrees to enter the workforce at top paying jobs," LeMaster told University officials there.
Dr. Isaac Crumbly, associate vice president for Collaborative Programs and director of the CDEP at FVSU, who first learned of UTPA's engineering programs at the first HESTEC Week, said the growing Hispanic population in Georgia makes the cooperative agreement particularly appropriate and timely for FVSU.
Crumbly said FVSU students majoring in math or preparatory work for an engineering degree usually had to transfer to a majority institution.
"Our population of Hispanics in Georgia keeps rising and there is really not a HSI there. So what we really wanted to offer, be they black students or Hispanic students, was a chance for them to go to a HSI if that's where they really wanted to get their second degree. In many instances minority students don't have the option of going to a Minority-Serving Institution to get a technical degree and we are real blessed that UTPA is here to provide that because they have an excellent engineering school," Crumbly said.
Founded in 1983 by Crumbly, the CDEP was initially developed at FVSU as an energy internship program with start-up funds from the U.S. Department of Energy. CDEP focuses on increasing the number of minorities and women working in the energy industry - both in private and government sectors.
The program offers extensive scholarship and internship opportunities with financial support of major companies and governmental agencies. There are currently 72 students pursuing dual degrees at FVSU or one of its now five partnering institutions.
LeMaster said that Fort Valley State already has dual agreement programs in math and engineering with Georgia Tech and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
In addition, they have dual programs, also called 3+2 (three years there, two years here) programs, in chemistry, geology or geophysics with The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma.
"Having the dual program in math was the best fit for us (UTPA)," LeMaster said.
The agreement, said LeMaster, also commits UTPA to provide, depending on fund availability, "direct additional scholarship support that will also qualify dual-degree students for in-state tuition" as well as to the students transferring "equivalent scholarship support."
"Many of their students have the same financial barriers to obtaining higher education as Valley students, so we are going to need to find scholarship money to support the program," LeMaster said.
The terms of agreement for the dual degree program will run six years, from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2010.