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NSF Awards UTEP $600,000 to Recruit Top Students to Engineering

Dr. Pennathur, Dr. Everett, and Dr. Contreras
Dr. Pennathur, Dr. Everett, and Dr. Contreras (left to right)
The National Science Foundation has awarded The University of Texas at El Paso nearly $600,000 for undergraduate scholarships that will be used to recruit high achieving students to the College of Engineering.

The project is titled “Cultivating a Culture of Technical Success and Leadership Excellence Among Hispanic Engineering Students: A Transformative Recruitment Model for Attracting High Achievers.” The project team consists of Dr. Arunkumar Pennathur, Associate Professor of Industrial, Manufacturing & Systems Engineering, Dr. Louis Everett, MacGuire Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Luis Contreras-Sapien, Associate Professor of Industrial, Manufacturing & Systems Engineering. The 5-year project will be administered by the UTEP Office of Scholarships.

According to Pennathur the project is not about just awarding scholarships to students. Rather, the project has an intensive research component.

“We are conducting an ethnographic study of factors that will enable our best high school students to come to UTEP to study Engineering. What we learn from the research study will inform how we can make our engineering programs more attractive to local talent."

The project will use a multipronged approach to attract the top 10% of high school graduates to UTEP Engineering.

The unique approach to recruiting students includes showcasing access and opportunity for hands-on research to high achieving students and challenging scholarship recipients to voluntarily help mentor other engineering students. The program will also involve alumni, high school counselors, industries that have hired UTEP alumni and faculty researchers to help present UTEP’s case to potential students. Overall, the program aims to make UTEP the “go-to campus for engineering.”

"We pride ourselves in providing hands-on research opportunities for our undergraduate students," said Everett. “Our faculty conduct top-notch research in their labs. So, we thought, why not pair up top achievers in high school with our faculty? Scholarship recipients can then mentor their peers who may need additional academic help.”

“The project is designed as a win-win for all students and engineering faculty,” said Contreras-Sapien. “We will retain our best talent in El Paso, help all students raise their performance levels and realize their dreams of obtaining a competitive college degree, and we will grow research productivity of our engineering faculty."