Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650
June 10, 2002

FOURTEEN UNIVERSITIES IN TEXAS TO WORK TOGETHER TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF ENGINEERING GRADUATES

DALLAS (SMU) -- Fourteen universities from across Texas are teaming up in a new initiative designed to help increase the number of engineering graduates in the state.

The new program is called the Texas Engineering Education Pipeline. It is being funded by state grants of nearly $2 million.

Universities participating in the Texas Engineering Education Pipeline include Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at Tyler, Lamar University, Texas Woman’s University, University of Texas at Arlington, Tarleton State University, St. Mary’s University, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Rice University, University of Texas at San Antonio and Baylor University.

The program will be managed by The Institute for Engineering Education at SMU. It was developed by Dr. Geoffrey Orsak, executive director of the institute and associate dean of the SMU School of Engineering.

The first phase of the Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program will involve deploying a new freshman engineering curriculum to participating universities in an effort to help improve the freshman retention rate. Currently, less than 50 percent of students who begin engineering programs complete those programs.

The curriculum to be used was developed by the Infinity Project, an award-winning program created by the Southern Methodist University School of Engineering and Texas Instruments to help students understand the real-world relevance of engineering, science and math and to expose them to high-tech career opportunities.

“The Infinity Project has proven to be extremely valuable in encouraging a more diverse set of students to be interested in pursuing degrees in engineering and computer science,” said Orsak, who also serves as director of the Infinity Project. “The Texas Engineering Education Pipeline will enable us to reach more of those students by leveraging the tremendous resources of the best engineering schools in Texas so that students with interest can have a place to pursue their education.”

Representatives from all the universities participating in the new Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program will come to SMU June 11-12 for an inaugural workshop. Representatives from several out-of-state universities that want to participate in the program also will attend.

“We are pleased to be a part of the Texas Engineering Education Pipeline,” said Bill Carroll, dean of the College of Engineering at UT Arlington. “We expect the new freshman curriculum to have a short-term impact on retention of freshman engineering students and, in the long-term, to attract more students to study engineering at UTA. This, coupled with similar results at other Texas universities, will go a long way to addressing Texas’ engineering workforce needs of the future.”

The second phase of the Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program will involve deploying the Infinity Project to additional high schools across Texas. Twenty-four high schools in Texas already offer the program, as do 16 high schools in other states. At the high school level, the Infinity Project curriculum is incorporated into a yearlong engineering class offered to sophomores, juniors or seniors who have completed Algebra II and one science course. Nineteen new high schools in seven states will offer the Infinity Project beginning in 2002-2003. Teachers from these schools will be coming to SMU for training this summer

The Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program includes a grant program that will enable underfunded high schools to participate in the Infinity Project. The program also will help fund the training of Infinity Project teachers and establish extensive mentorship programs for high school students participating in the program.

Funds from the Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program also will be used to host three annual statewide conferences that focus on such issues as freshman retention and increasing the quality of engineering education in Texas high schools.

The Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program will be directed by a board that consists of representatives from five of the participating schools. The program is being partially funded by the Texas Engineering Technical Consortium, which was created in 2001 to increase the number of engineering graduates in Texas through unique public-private partnerships. The Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program received the most funding of the initial 33 proposals funded by the Consortium. The office of Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has contributed funds for the program.


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