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For Immediate Release

UTB/TSC, Foundations Celebrate Establishment of S.T.E.P.S. Endowment

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – AUGUST 24, 2010 – Leaders of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and representatives of local and state foundations commemorated the establishment of an endowment to help students gain on-campus employment and research experience during a ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

The Science, Technology and Engineering Partnership for Success grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help UTB/TSC’s College of Science, Mathematics and Technology to redesign academic programs, buy new equipment, create more support services and place students in on-campus jobs. The $1.5 million grant is for two years with an opportunity for funding to be increased for three more years.UTB/TSC, Foundations Celebrate Establishment of S.T.E.P.S. Endowment

Included in the grant is $160,000 from the federal Department of Education to help set up a $320,000 endowment for UTB/TSC students who have an associate degree and are interested in continuing their education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The endowment will provide stipends for students to work 20 hours a week as laboratory, research or teaching assistants. Students must take at least 15 semester credit hours and six hours in May and summer sessions.

Dr. Juan Iglesias, associate professor and chair of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, said up to 10 students each semester may be supported with the endowment. He said students can apply soon for campus research jobs.

“I feel so thankful of the people who have helped in one way or another on this grant,” he said.

Other contributions to the endowment were $40,000 from the Brownsville Foundation for Health and Education, $20,000 from Keppel AmFELS and $10,000 each from the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Greater Texas Foundation.

UTB/TSC President Juliet V. García said the public-private collaboration will help students be more engaged on campus, improve their resumes and provide an opportunity to network with professors.

“We know our students in the Rio Grande Valley have talent,” she said. “All they need is a little bit of opportunity.”

Nicole Ulloa, 21, a senior computer science major from Brownsville, is the kind of student Iglesias said he hopes the endowment can attract. Ulloa has always been interested in science, technology and engineering and at UTB/TSC has been a laboratory and teaching assistant through the Student Employment Initiative Program and done research on an integrated circuit called a Field Programmable Gate Array with Dr. Guillermo Weber of the Department of Engineering.

“I find working here on campus to be quite lucky really,” said Ulloa. “I work with professors who specialize in the field I’m interested in and also receive knowledge about the field that I want a degree in.”

Dr. Wynn Rosser, Greater Texas Foundation executive director, addresses the audience during the endowment ceremony.

Dr. Wynn Rosser, Greater Texas Foundation executive director, addresses the audience during the endowment ceremony.

Dr. Wynn Rosser, executive director of the Greater Texas Foundation, said the partnership match strategy was a way to see who supports initiatives geared toward attaining higher education.

“We have already focused on access,” he said. “Now we must focus on completion and engagement.”

Chris Coxon, chief program officer of the Communities Foundation of Texas, said making the contribution was important to the organization’s work bolstering science, technology, engineering and mathematics students and developing an early college high school climate for Texas’ future first-generation, low-income college students.

“We know they need additional support,” said Coxon. “It will put the support in place for the students to do work.”

Contributing to the betterment of students and programs at UTB/TSC is nothing new for the contributing organizations. In past years contributions have been made to the university’s chess program, The Arts Center’s capital campaign and other endowments providing scholarships.

The grant and endowment will help produce more Hispanics for science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, said Juan Sepúlveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

“It’s exactly what needs to happen for our students to be ready with jobs in the 21stcentury,” said Sepúlveda.

Sepúlveda cited statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development to illustrate the need to better prepare students for a rapidly global workforce:

  • The United States is 21st out of 30 of the world’s most developed nations in science literacy
  • A quarter of the nation’s 15 year olds do not reach science competency
  • The United States is 25th out of 30 of the world’s most developed countries in mathematics literacy
  • A quarter of the nation’s 15 year olds do not reach mathematics competency

“We have to raise the bar for our students,” said Sepúlveda.

The Department of Computer and Information Sciences has increased its external funding, money that does not come from the university, from zero dollars to $5 million the last three years, said Iglesias.

“This says a lot about the quality of our programs,” he said. “It has been an expansion and of course we are applying for more grants.”

The Department of Computer and Information Sciences and the Department of Engineering have received other good news. Both departments recently received accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. The board accredits 2,900 programs at more than 600 colleges and universities in the United States to ensure professional quality.

For more information, contact Laurie Howell, director for Corporations and Foundations Office, at (956) 882-4334 or laurie.howell@utb.edu.

 

 

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