Schools for Hispanics
the best schools for Hispanics who want to pursue a degree
in engineering? One way to gauge "best" is to look
at the numbers. For us, that means answering this
fundamental question: Which schools are graduating the
largest number of Hispanic students?
National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc.
(NACME; http://www.nacme.org) has looked at minority
graduation rates for institutions of higher education. Of
the 21 universities in the continental U.S. that graduated
the most Latino engineers in the class of 1996-97, six are
designated as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). HSIs are
defined as colleges or universities with at least 25 percent
Hispanic enrollment. About two-thirds of all Hispanic
college students attend HSIs.
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU;
http://www.hacu.net) has identified 209 HSIs in the
continental U.S. and Puerto Rico, 41 of which offer
bachelor's degrees in engineering or engineering-related
to NACME's 1996-97 report, the six top HSIs in the
continental United States in number of Latino engineering
graduates were Florida International University (141
graduates), University of Texas - El Paso (105), New Mexico
State University (70), Texas A&M University - Kingsville
(63), the University of New Mexico (48), and University of
Texas - Pan American (44). When U.S. territories are
included in the calculations, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez
and the Universidad Politécnica de Puerto Rico graduate by
far the largest number of Hispanic engineers.
1. University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez
The University of Puerto Rico's School of Engineering in
Mayaguez (http://www.uprm.edu) boasts the largest number of
Hispanic engineering students in the United States. The
public university has 4,600 engineering students, according
to Andres Calderon, Ph.D., the associate dean of
engineering. Dr. Calderon says the university is
"lucky" to have the best high school graduates on
the island because of the popularity of its programs.
is a five-year program, and because of this, we can give
students a broader education than other schools," Dr.
Calderon says. And, he adds, "industry is telling us
they appreciate this."
2. Universidad Politécnica de Puerto Rico
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico (http://www.pupr.edu)
is the second largest engineering school for Hispanics and
the largest private school, with nearly 3,800 engineers
enrolled in 1999-2000. Dean of Engineering Carlos Gonzalez,
Ph.D. says this is true in part because of the high caliber
of faculty members, half of whom are licensed professional
engineers, and the flexible class schedule, which runs from
8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and on Saturdays, making it easier
for students to attend.
3. Florida International University
Like UPR and Politécnica, the engineering schools that are
most popular with Hispanics in the continental U.S. also are
located in regions with large Spanish-speaking populations
to draw from. At Florida International University (http://www.fiu.edu),
in Miami, 55 percent of the students are Hispanic.
Engineering is one of the most popular majors on campus,
with 6 percent of students enrolled in the program. Vish
Prasad, Ph.D., dean of engineering, says FIU produces the
most Hispanic engineers on the mainland in part because,
"We make minority students feel at home. We also do a
good job of outreach."
University of Texas - El Paso
University of Texas - El Paso (http://www.utep.edu) enrolls
9,243 full-time students, 72 percent of them Hispanic.
Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., chair of the civil engineering
department, says the university works hard to provide access
for minorities and promote high standards of excellence.
large majority of the faculty is involved in research,"
Dr. Ferregut says. "Undergraduates as well as graduate
students get to work closely with the faculty."
gives students a chance to do their own research, he says:
"Undergraduates get the chance to write original papers
and present them at conferences."
5. New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces (http://www.nmsu.edu),
nearly 40 percent of engineering students -- and 50 percent
of freshmen in engineering -- are Latino. Jay Jordan, Ph.D.,
dean of the Department of Engineering, says the university
is a place that welcomes minorities and makes them feel at
home. Furthermore, he says: "Our engineering graduates
have earned the respect of employers" because of their
quality of education and because employers "like the
work ethic of our students."
encourage interest in science and engineering studies, the
university has an active outreach program. Dean Jordan
explains: "We start with middle school students by
offering them a summer program to get them interested in
engineering. This helps them make the right choices in math
and science during high school."
6. Texas A&M University-Kingsville
The campus at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (http://www.tamuk.edu)
reflects the demographics of the area, with 61 percent of
the students Hispanic, 27 percent white, and 5 percent
African American. Phil Compton, Ph.D., dean of the Frank H.
Dotterweich College of Engineering at Texas A&M
University-Kingsville, explains: "We are very fortunate
to be in a region that serves a prominently Hispanic
population and have worked hard to ensure our student
population is similar. We also have been successful in
providing support services to our primarily first-generation
Compton says the faculty of Texas A&M
University-Kingsville recognize the value of "teaching
through research" and provide undergraduate students
the opportunity to become involved in a wide variety of
University of New Mexico
At the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque (http://www.unm.edu),
33 percent of the full-time students are Hispanic. Joseph
Cecchi, Ph.D., dean of engineering, says the university has
a very strong commitment to engineering education and has
programs that are designed carefully to provide a high
standard of training. In addition, he explains, "Our
program is extremely research intensive. This enhances the
quality of education, giving students hands-on experience.
And we work to recruit the best faculty."
stresses that the department's courses are always current,
because they are built around a faculty that is on the
cutting edge of research.
Cecchi emphasizes that the university has "a strong
commitment to diversity in all dimensions" and offers
support programs to help enhance the graduation rate and
advancement of students.
University of Texas - Pan American
Located just 20 miles from the Texas-Mexico border,
University of Texas - Pan American, in Edinburg (http://www
panam.edu), boasts a total student body that is nearly 90
percent Hispanic; in the engineering department, 84 percent
of the 687 students are Hispanic. The university offers
bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering,
mechanical engineering, and manufacturing engineering and
has 360 students in computer science. Edwin LeMaster, Ph.D.,
interim associate dean and director of the School of
Engineering and Computer Science says he believes UTPA's
location helps students develop a special cultural
sensitivity that many employers find appealing.
graduates are in demand by global businesses in part because
they are bilingual and bicultural," Dr. LeMaster says.
For More Information
Whatever their choice of schools, a growing number of young
Hispanic students are discovering a career in engineering
gives them the freedom and the power to, quite literally,
create America's future.
more about opportunities in engineering, you may contact the
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes extensive career
information at their site, http://stats.bls.gov. We also
recommend reading "America's Best Colleges,"
published by U.S. News & World Report each year.
E. Phillips can be reached at BPhillips@ccgmag.com.