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The Prospector

Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

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El Paso on My Mind

Special to The Prospector

Happy Friday! I didn’t get a chance to blog last Friday because I was in the midst of a tremendous two-day visit to UT El Paso.

All of our universities and health institutions contribute culturally and economically to their local communities, but few universities anywhere are as enmeshed in the life of their hometown as UT El Paso.

Simply put, UT El Paso is unique. Set in the foothills of the Franklin Mountains, El Paso enjoys the kind of mountain views most people simply don’t associate with Texas. Paul Foster, Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents and El Paso resident – along with UTEP President Diana Natalicio and her team – graciously showed Georgeann, me and my UT System colleagues around the city and the university last week.

The first thing you notice about the campus is the architecture. It requires a little backstory. UTEP was founded 101 years ago (although then it was called the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy). The wife of the school’s first dean was fascinated by some photos she had seen of Bhutan, a country in South Asia, in National Geographic. She persuaded her husband that Bhutanese-style architecture would be the perfect fit for his school’s first building. And long story short, in the century that followed, as the school has grown, the campus has sustained an unusual degree of architectural consistency and a life-long connection with the people of Bhutan. Almost everywhere you look, you see the signature sloping walls, overhanging roofs, dark bands of brick and mosaic tiles.
In culmination of UTEP’s 100 th anniversary, a historic campus transformation project is nearly complete. Students now enjoy outdoor green spaces and the ability to walk freely across their campus. Additionally, the Texas Legislature recently approved $70 million in tuition revenue bonds to help fund a new interdisciplinary research center on campus. UTEP continues to grow!

Under President Natalicio’s leadership, UTEP has focused on offering high-quality and affordable educational opportunities to young people of all backgrounds – and that focus has garnered national attention, as Washington Monthly magazine ranked UTEP #1 in the country for fostering student mobility. UTEP’s access and excellence model is something we all can learn from.

But what makes UTEP unique has less to do with its architecture, or its growth, than with its vision and commitment to making a difference in the Paso del Norte region. In reaching out to the K-12 schools and the community colleges, they have encouraged the region to buy into the concept of higher education as a game changer for individual students and for the community itself.

In my UTEP visit, I had a chance to see a lot of really impressive facilities, including simulation laboratories and 3D printing sites. But more importantly, I got to meet the faculty, the staff, and especially the students who are the lifeblood of every UT System campus. I also met with local business leaders, legislators and members of the media. Everywhere I turned, and every conversation I had, I got a reminder of how important a good university is to the community around it.
I left El Paso feeling very proud of what UTEP means to this unique American community. I’m excited about the future the school and the community will share, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

I hope you have a great weekend. Thanks for reading.

*Editors Note: This story was first published on One-on-One with Chancellor Bill McRaven for The University of Texas System.

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El Paso on My Mind