UTEP STEM recognition breaks barriers for underrepresented students

Valerie Herrera, Staff Reporter

For more than 20 years, the UT System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, has worked arduously to increase the number of students who pursue degrees in science, engineering, and mathematics. Of the UT System’s institutions, UTEP has ranked high for the number of STEM degrees awarded to Latinos.

In a recent study conducted by Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization which focuses on Latino educational achievement based in Washington D.C, UTEP is recognized among the top 2 percent of all U.S. institutions that teach one-third of the Latinos earning degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in the 2012-13 school year.

Laura Borunda, sophomore forensic science major, said she was recruited to be part of a STEM research project as a freshman and it helped with her studies.

“It opened doors to new opportunities that UTEP was able to be a part of and it gave me hands-on experience,” Borunda said. “I’m proud that all the efforts of STEM participants and students was nationally recognized.”

Dr. Benjamin Flores, director of LSAMP, said all the programs are led by outstanding faculty and staff, who have made contributions to reach their goals.

“Given our institutional commitment to serving the region from which we draw our ever-growing student population, we all have to feel very proud about our university’s national ranking in graduating Latinos in STEM fields,” Flores said.

The report ranks schools solely by the number of STEM degrees awarded to Hispanic students.

According to the statistics collected, UTEP ranked third in the country in awarding bachelor’s degrees, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM fields to Latinos.

UTEP has awarded 521 bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields to Hispanic students. It has also awarded 93 master’s degrees and 23 doctoral degrees in STEM fields to Latinos in the years 2012 and 2013.

Kevin Renteria, freshman metallurgical engineering major, said this accomplishment shows the world that Hispanic and Latino students are capable of achieving more than what was traditionally percieved.

“It is getting our name out there and proving that Mexican American, Hispanic and Latino students alike can succeed academically and can get opportunities in other fields outside of hard labor, low-wage paying jobs,” Renteria said.

Flores said the recognition sends a signal to the entire nation that a new type of university is leading the way in preparing thousands of future capable scientists and engineers, who not only diversify the STEM workforce, but also help the nation to maintain its world-leader status.

“This national distinction is very important to us, as it serves as a reminder that access to higher education combined with commitment to excellence truly impacts people’s lives,” Flores said.

Valerie Herrera may be reached at [email protected]