UTPB opens new engineering building - Odessa American: UTPB

UTPB opens new engineering building

By Ruth Campbell rcampbell@oaoa.com | Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 5:14 pm

University of Texas Permian Basin held the grand opening for its long-awaited engineering building Tuesday with a number of lawmakers and other dignitaries, business partners and donors in attendance.

The opening included refreshments and tours of the $55 million, 105,801-square-foot limestone, glass and steel, energy efficient building at 1105 W. Highway 191.

“The new engineering building is right in the heart of one of the most important places on Earth,” UTPB President Sandra Woodley said. “We’re very proud of this facility. We are also thankful to all of the people here and the partners who really helped make this happen.”

“We’re celebrating not just the building today. We’re celebrating what it signifies for the future of this promising university and we’re celebrating what it can help us accomplish for this community. Our future is literally so bright, we’re wearing shades,” Woodley said pointing out she and several others on the stage were wearing sunglasses.

Woodley said the building will provide the means for UTPB’s engineering program and others to grow and meet the needs of the workforce and the innovation demands of the region.

“That is why this building is so important and that is why the partnerships and the collaborations that we’re developing with so many of you are going to have a significant impact on our future. Today, the state-of–the-art facility houses the next generation of petroleum, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineers,” Woodley said. “And the thought leaders and the faculty members who are doing important research and teaching in this building, they will lead us into the next chapter of exploration, efficiency and responsibility.”

Woodley said UTPB is No. 1 in the nation for the highest-paid petroleum engineering graduates, according to US. News & World Report.

It has a 100 percent pass rate for graduates taking the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam and is ranked in the top 30 percent among engineering programs in the nation, Woodley said.

“Over the next few months, we will be finalizing partnerships to name this beautiful building …,” Woodley said.

UT System Chancellor James Milliken said he wanted to add his thanks to the legislators who made the building possible and championed the tuition revenue bonds that provided much of the financing for the facility.

“It’s an exciting, historic time for this region and its public university. The eyes of the world are on the Permian Basin, now the fourth largest oil and gas producing area in the world and leading the United States to energy independence,” Milliken said.

For a long time, Milliken said, the Permian Basin has made an outsized contribution to Texas and to the nation, particularly into the University of Texas System, for which we are “eternally grateful.”

“… Now we have an obligation as the University of Texas System to pay it back to support the people and the region of the Permian Basin with education and workforce development, with healthcare and we’re going to do that,” Milliken said.

State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said 9 percent of UTPB students are enrolled in engineering. He said getting to the opening of this building was not easy.

Efforts to get engineering programs approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board began about 10 years ago. They faced rejection of programs, followed by numerous phone calls by Craddick and the governor and it was ultimately approved.

Additional programs were approved thereafter with another round of phone calls, Craddick said.

Craddick credited Javaid Anwar for his help in getting approval of expansion of the electrical and chemical engineering.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said he introduced a bill in the 84th legislature as chairman of the Committee on Higher Education that created building projects on 64 campuses.

“A lot of them have opened all over the state. None of them, none of them have greater reason for a great deal of pride than we do right here. Not just for this beautiful building, but what’s going to go on here that is transformative both in this area and in higher education,” Seliger said.

“The petroleum industry in all of these disciplines, the graduates today overwhelmingly are getting some great opportunities based upon the education that they’re getting right here. And about petroleum engineering, what can you say except that this will be a center of excellence and preference for those interested in this industry from all over the world,” he added.

Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, said the opening is a chance to celebrate UTPB’s growth and its bright future. Because of the building, Landgraf said the best and brightest students from around the area will be able to stay at home and earn a first-class engineering degree in a world-class facility.

“By the same token, the best and brightest students from all across Texas and across the United States can now see this building and the vast oil reserves around it and know that UT PB is the place to be if you want to be a successful engineer in and around the oil patch. And because of this magnificent faculty, educational opportunities and career opportunities in the energy industry, which is the backbone of the economy of the state of Texas, are more limitless than ever before here in the Permian Basin,” Landgraf said.

Dean of the College of Engineering George Nnanna said this is not just a building, but it is home to various engineering disciplines.

“This building, this three-story building affords us an opportunity for student collaborative spaces, research laboratories and opportunities for us to network with the industry. Already we are seeing benefits just by having this building,” Nnanna said.

Dean Lizzotte, a senior mechanical engineering student, is from McAllen.

“I first chose this university for its engineering program and for its location in the Permian Basin, so when I heard we were getting a brand-new engineering building I was completely ecstatic, and then to realize that I was going to be able to get my final year here in this state-of-the-art facility, it was just mind blowing,” Lizzotte said.

Lizzotte said he finds the stadium seating in the classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, auditorium and independent study rooms are very impressive.

“Also what I truly believe about this building is it’s going to enhance all forms of engineering, both in the community and locally for our students and I truly believe it’s going to enhance the opportunities for everyone,” he said.

Monica Driscoll, a junior mechanical engineering student with a nuclear track from Clyde, UTPB was one of the only schools that was looking at her that had engineering.

“And that was my big deciding factor is I really wanted to be an engineer. They had a great program, so I decided to come to UTPB,” Driscoll said.

Driscoll said she has loved it so far. She added that the labs are amazing and the classrooms are so well thought out.

“I’ve been so excited to know that I get to finish my last two years here in this new building. … I spent all summer here, so I got to watch it grow and just kind of become the building that it is right now …,” she said.