Officials at The University of Texas-Pan American got a wonderful welcome to the 2006 fall semester with the announcement of a combined contribution of more than $330,000 in grants and scholarships to the University and related organizations from the AT&T Foundation and AT&T Texas Aug. 25.
Presented at a press conference at the UTPA Visitors Center, the money will be spread over four initiatives at UTPA to help ensure student success. Leading this current partnership effort between UTPA and AT&T was Yno Gonzalez, president of AT&T Data and Network Services and member of the UTPA Foundation Board of Trustees.
Others in attendance included UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas; UTPA Vice President for External Affairs Dr. Roland S. Arriola; State Representatives Aaron Pena (TX-40) and Veronica Gonzalez (TX-41); and Salomon Torres, district office director for Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), and other AT&T and University staff and administrators.
The bulk of the financial support - a $250,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T Inc. - will go to the UTPA Foundation to support enhanced technology for the Center for Distance Learning and Teaching Excellence (CDLTE) in its multimodal delivery of online, web-enhanced courses. The grant will help the University meet the needs of a growing student enrollment by providing a quality educational experience through web-based instruction, streaming media service, assessment software, online lecture archiving and a collaborative research study room updated with advanced high-tech computer equipment. According to Gonzalez, UTPA has been a leader in the use of telecommunication to deliver quality education programming and access to learning ensures that students can obtain an education in spite of geographical or financial boundaries.
"Educators agree that teaching and learning models need to change to accommodate the diversity of needs of today's students. With this grant we will be able to take the lead in learning science research focused on a Hispanic population," said Christina Rogoza, CDLTE director.
The UTPA Foundation will also receive a $15,000 donation from AT&T Texas toward its scholarship fund to provide additional financial support to students wanting to pursue higher education opportunities at UTPA. This support comes at a critical time of decreased operating funds from the state to higher education institutions.
Another $50,000 grant provided by the AT&T Foundation will go to the UTPA GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) project, a federal program maintained by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) to help youth from low-income communities attain a postsecondary education. The UTPA GEAR UP Project currently serves more than 15,000 students and their parents in the South Texas area.
The grant, titled "Science on Saturdays: A Unique Approach to Coastal Studies and Marine Biology," will provide real life learning experiences for GEAR UP students via the UTPA Coastal Studies Lab at South Padre Island in an approach that will boost math and science performance, increase reading academic performance and integrate state-of-the-art technology resources said Dr. Martha Cantu, UTPA GEAR UP director.
Through grant funds, GEAR UP students will be able to board a discovery vessel and take an exploratory journey through the Lower Laguna Madres' unique aquatic environment and collect marine organisms for subsequent classification and study at the lab.
"Learning must be exciting, hands-on and fun in order to keep the students engaged," said Cantu, who thanked AT&T for providing students "a whale of a time."
The UTPA athletics department will also benefit from $16,500 in grants from AT&T Texas to support athletic program scholarships, books, academic assistance, financial aid and facility upgrades.
"This corporate sponsorship will help our 180 student-athletes complete their degree here at UTPA," said Director of Athletics Scott Street, who described the many academic and competitive accomplishments of UTPA student-athletes as well as their volunteer work on 32 community service projects this past year.
Cárdenas said what distinguished this effort by the UTPA Foundation in partnership with AT&T was the focus on identifying ways to strengthen the institution - "to build a stronger, better, more powerful University of Texas-Pan American."
"AT&T was very receptive, not only telling us they want to support this effort but they want to keep supporting the University at higher levels. So we look forward to that and are very, very grateful," she said.