Originally published in UTEP Magazine, Winter 2015
By Nadia M. Whitehead
Photo by J.R. Hernandez
The University of Texas at El Paso is set to offer the first Bachelor of Science in Engineering Leadership in the country.
“We believe this program will change the paradigm for engineering education,” said Richard Schoephoerster, Ph.D., College of Engineering dean and pioneer of the idea of the degree.
The innovative new bachelor’s is in response to the ever-changing role of engineers in society, Schoephoerster explained, from businessperson and entrepreneur to leader and communicator.
As the first Bachelor of Science in Engineering Leadership (E-Lead) in the country, the specialized degree will help students enter the workforce as well-rounded, confident individuals. While a technical engineering education will remain key, the program will focus on teaching rising engineers business, communication, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. The curriculum is intended to capture the interest and imagination of talented, young students who are looking to turn their ideas into reality.
Roger V. Gonzalez, Ph.D., a mechanical and biomedical engineer, will serve as E-Lead’s director.
“It’s not all about calculus and physics – even though I love those subjects – but about the breadth you can communicate with others,” he said. “We need to extend the reach of engineering beyond technical matters.”
To do so, E-Lead will focus on three core values that are the foundation of a strong engineering leader: character, competence and capacity. Courses will revolve around nurturing independent, caring characters, and encouraging students to master their field of study. They’ll also be presented with diverse challenges to learn how to incorporate multiple disciplines in day-to-day work.
In addition, E-Lead will collaborate with the nationally recognized Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and West Point, a military institution renowned for forging leaders, for guidance on designing curriculum that will transform the experience of students. The hope is to go beyond course content and focus on applying and integrating students’ skills and knowledge in real-world scenarios.
UTEP alumnus Bob Malone, former president and chairman of British Petroleum (BP) America, strongly supports the new program, which he says represents a shift in how engineering is taught across the country.
“Early on in my career it became obvious that a strong engineering foundation was not enough,” Malone said. “Engineering schools need to broaden strong engineering backgrounds with additional critical skills.”
The Engineering Leadership program was made possible by a $1 million gift from Malone and his wife, Diane, in 2011 along with a matching gift of $1 million from the Halliburton Foundation.
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