[Published in the El Paso Times, January 5, 2014]
By all measures, 2014 promises to be an exciting year for UTEP and El Paso. One hundred years ago this fall, visionary civic leaders who understood the importance of higher education to our city’s development saw their dreams come true with the opening of a mining school in El Paso.
Today, that school is UTEP, and it has become a leading national university that is setting a new standard for higher education in the 21st century. UTEP’s centennial offers all El Pasoans a special opportunity to celebrate our many achievements and anticipate an even brighter future for the University and the region we serve.
For 100 years UTEP has enjoyed a productive partnership with the surrounding community, working together to advance human and economic development in the region. In 1914, when the school was founded, it was the Chamber of Commerce that enthusiastically supported the project and city leaders who donated the land on which today’s campus is built.
During the difficult days of the Great Depression, the college was supported by El Paso High School officials who shared their books and desks to keep the college open. And over the past century, generous donors have enabled thousands of talented students to achieve their full potential.
Fueled by support from El Paso civic leaders, donors and our collective commitment to create excellent higher education opportunities, UTEP has awarded more than 110,000 degrees in a variety of fields, from the sciences, humanities, arts and music, to engineering, health and education.
The university’s growing research portfolio now comprises approximately $250 million in funded research activities that reflect the innovative thinking and expertise of our talented faculty and students whose work includes seeking cures for diseases and promoting healthy living, making major science and technology breakthroughs, conserving water and expanding alternative energy, as well as promoting this region’s economic development and improved quality of life.
As one of El Paso County’s largest employers, with an annual budget in excess of $400 million, UTEP — together with its faculty, staff and alumni living in the area, as well as business stimulated by University operations — adds an estimated $1.3 billion to the El Paso economy, exceeding most major economic sectors.
Last year UTEP was ranked No. 7 among all U.S. research universities by Washington Monthly and No. 1 for fostering student social mobility. This recognition validates all that we have done to provide residents of this region with affordable access to a world-class education.
As our faculty push the boundaries of discovery through their research, our students gain practical experience that moves them toward graduation, promotes deeper learning, increases confidence, and improves job placement and career success.
UTEP’s growth as an emerging Tier One institution portends great things for our community. Our centennial celebration will extend throughout the year with a full calendar of activities to include thought-provoking lectures, the unveiling of special gifts, reunions of Miners on campus and across the globe, performances by members of the UTEP family and many other arts, culture and entertainment events.
Our new Centennial Plaza will be completed this summer, transforming the center of the campus into pedestrian friendly areas enhanced with the shade of hundreds of drought-tolerant trees and shade structures. We also look forward to announcing this year new ways in which UTEP will help promote this region’s global competitiveness and expand opportunities for students.
UTEP is proud to be El Paso’s university. Our centennial celebration is El Paso’s celebration, too. We have much to celebrate together as we reflect on our shared past and look forward toward an even brighter future.