UTPB, MC extend engineering agreement

In an extension of their partnership, the presidents of University of Texas Permian Basin and Midland College signed an agreement to make transferring between the schools more seamless.

The announcement was made in UTPB’s new engineering building, set to be finished in time for fall classes. The structure is next to the CEED Building at 1310 N. Farm to Market Road 1788.

Officials said students will be able to take classes concurrently at UTPB while they are at Midland College.

Last year, the schools signed an articulation agreement creating a clear pathway for transfers, Tatum Guinn, communications manager at UTPB said.

Guinn said this agreement is a little more specific in that it provides scholarship opportunities, the concurrent classes and the chance to take summer classes. She added that it would also accelerate the degree process.

“Midland College now has the ability to offer scholarships, so we can offer up to $1,000 a semester, depending on where a student comes in in math. UTPB is now going to offer one free engineering class a semester after students have completed their engineering basics at Midland College,” said Margaret Wade, dean of math and science at MC.

Brian Flowers, department chair of physics at Midland College, said the pact will benefit people across the Permian Basin. He added that they are trying to break down as many barriers as possible for students.

 “… For a lot of students, it’s cost. Higher education costs a lot. With an engineering degree, it’s one of the few degrees that still has a positive return on investment for your four years. In Midland, if you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a civil engineer in Midland, Texas, $140,000 a year,” Flowers said. “It’s unreal and so we can really help students with getting started on that path to financial success.”

Wade said students can take part in a trip to Roatán in the Caribbean where students conduct experiments on the coral reef to see what’s happening with it.

For students that want to do something else, there are chances to share speakers, ideas and take advantage of the petroleum extension facility at UTPB, she said. 

“We want to grow our own engineers here in the Permian Basin,” Wade said, “and research shows that students who live here and go to school here are more likely to stay here. That’s what we want … .”

Nicholas Mastroianna, a Midland College student, told those attending that he started his education there about two years ago.

“I had no idea really what was going to be in store for me. Little did I know that they (Midland College) were just on the cusp of becoming something so much greater than it already (was). A lot of that is due to the faculty and staff that have been there and the people that have just grown (it) into something incredible,” Mastroianna said. “I’ve been very extremely fortunate to be able to see that come to fruition from its beginning, so special thanks to Midland College for all you’ve done for me. I look forward to this opportunity and this merging for other students because both are great schools and everyone can gain from it.”

Anthony Harris, now a senior in mechanical engineering, transferred from MC to UTPB.

“… I think this pathway can be a very valuable tool for our local best and brightest to get a home- court advantage in becoming industry ready professionals. I feel like any school can take students and hustle them through some program …” toward a degree “that they didn’t know that they didn’t need,” Harris said.

“But a good school will work with students to help them find their passion; help them find out what they really enjoy doing. Midland College was that school for me. They helped me figure out what my strengths and weaknesses were and then it was UTPB who took those strengths and turned them into a marketable skill set for me to go by,” Harris added.

He said he originally went to MC for a criminal justice degree and if he hadn’t taken the science requirement, he would be in law enforcement now.

“If I had been hustled through, I never would have figured out I was good at engineering. As it turns out, the work that I was doing, I was good at it. I enjoyed doing it and I felt like it was important work, so the relationship between Midland College and UTPB really paved the way for me to make a seamless transition from law enforcement into the UTPB engineering program,” Harris said.

He said the professors at UTPB are top notch and allow the school to provide a great education at an affordable price.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said UTPB is thrilled to keep the collaboration between the two schools going and praised MC President Steve Thomas for his collaboration and his counsel.

Woodley said the agreement will ensure that the people of the Permian Basin have an opportunity to participate in the “enormous prosperity that comes from being one of the most important geopolitical places on Earth.”

She said it’s really hard to overstate the global significance of what’s going on in the region.

Woodley said she wants to ensure that students get hands-on learning experience so they “really understand from the ground up what it means to be an engineer here in the Permian Basin.”

She also praised the faculty at both schools.

 “… I am so proud of the collaboration between our respective deans. They really do exemplify the big-tent mentality that is one of our core values at the university,” Woodley said. 

After the news conference, a tour of the first floor of the new building was offered.

Jaime Lopez, a UTPB senior studying mechanical engineering, said it was phenomenal.

 “It’s something that’s going to help students for generations in the future. Our old building … wasn’t up to date. This one, it’s futuristic,” Lopez said. “I think it’s going to help students learn, collaborate and have all the resources possible for a great future of an engineering student.”