Originally published in UTEP Magazine, Winter 2015
By Lisa Y. Garibay
One alum’s gift keeps on giving back to The University of Texas at El Paso.
This fall marks the first semester for the University’s B.S./M.B.A. program, which bridges the colleges of Business Administration and Engineering. This unique course of study addresses a gap within professional sectors that UTEP students are eager to fill.
Past M.B.A. graduates who also received a Bachelor of Science degree from UTEP have repeatedly mentioned how business education made a true difference in helping differentiate them within the workforce and rounded out their skill sets.
“This isn’t just theoretical for us,” said Laura Uribarri, assistant dean for M.B.A. Programs at the Graduate Business Center. “We have these examples of students who have done the two programs and employers absolutely love them.”
UTEP mechanical engineering graduate Mike Loya put the wheels in motion for the program via his $10 million gift to the University in 2011, which helped to establish the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce. This dual-degree program is part of the center’s commitment to engage in faculty- and student-led research at the intersection of business, engineering sciences and the arts.
Daniela Noriega, a B.S. in industrial engineering candidate, and B.S. in electrical engineering candidate Jorge Martinez are two of the three students currently enrolled in the B.S./M.B.A. joint degree program.
“Ever since I was younger, I always tried to sell things to people – picture the six-year-old in the neighborhood selling chocolates,” Noriega said. “I guess there was an entrepreneur inside me wanting to come out. The passion for having my own future business brought that entrepreneurial spirit out and pushed me to go ahead and apply for the program.”
Martinez was considering master’s programs when he heard about the new B.S./M.B.A. joint degree program in an electrical engineering junior professional orientation class.
“The ability to work on my B.S.E.E. program concurrently with the M.B.A. was more than enough to persuade me to apply,” he said. “Going through the final stages of the B.S.E.E. degree, ideas and opportunities for entrepreneurship are not scarce, and having the business knowledge to see them through is invaluable.”
Noriega refers to what she has learned thus far as “incomparable,” adding she has a new appreciation for how business and engineering processes are connected to one another.
A few more students are expected to join the program in the spring semester. The window for applications has been kept open beyond fall due to the strong interest expressed by students.
The program was able to provide Loya Fellowship Funding to some of the current enrollees to help them pay for their education. New students will be considered for this funding as they move into full M.B.A. status.
Additional Bachelor of Science programs will be considered in the future, too, as long as there can be a balance between science-oriented course requirements and those on the business end.
“We have heard from students in other majors who really want the opportunity to do it,” said Uribarri, who refers to the program as a work in progress.
Involved departments are excited about the merger, with faculty enjoying the diversity science-oriented majors bring into business classes. Along with the program’s organizers, these faculty are continually inspired by the chance to fill this niche with prepared, professional UTEP graduates.
“We are setting these students up to step into management rotation programs within different companies or to start their own company,” Uribarri said. “Having them leave here with a graduate degree means that they are stepping into the job market with a very different set of opportunities than their (Bachelor of Science) colleagues, and that’s a really wonderful thing. Their pay potential is much higher and their professional opportunities are much broader.”
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