University of California

Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Austin

The UT System Board of Regents voted Friday to select Greg Fenves, UT executive vice president and provost, as the sole finalist to become the next UT president.

If approved, Fenves will replace outgoing President William Powers Jr., whose relationship with the Board has been tumultuous for the last several years. The Board must wait 21 days before making an official appointment. 

Fenves came to UT as a civil engineering assistant professor in 1984 and served as dean for the Cockrell School of Engineering from 2008 to 2013. In his capacity as provost, Fenves has been responsible for academic, research and curriculum affairs, as well as resource allocation for faculty recruitment. Working with deans and other academic officials, Fenves also oversees planning and operations for libraries, museums, collections, and research centers.

Sharon Wood, who succeeded Fenves as engineering school dean, said she first met Fenves when he was a faculty member at the University of California-Berkeley nearly 25 years ago.

“I was very taken aback at his very strong vision. He articulated it very well — where he wanted the department to go and what targets they had,” Wood said.

Since his appointment as provost in October 2013, Fenves has worked closely with Powers on a variety of University initiatives. At Friday’s meeting, three of the regents who have been most vocal in their criticism of Powers — Wallace Hall, Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich — all voted against Fenves.

Board Chairman Paul Foster said he felt the dissenting voices speak well to the Board’s decision-making process.

“I think it’s wonderful that we have a diverse board and that we don’t rubber stamp any issues,” Foster said. “We thoroughly vet every issue and all of our regents feel completely comfortable expressing their views.”

Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, president of the Texas Exes, said the selection committee favored Fenves after it interviewed him for the president position. Fenves was one of three main candidates in the search, alongside current UT-Dallas President David Daniel and Oxford University Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton, who was widely reported to be the front-runner, announced he was taking a position as president at New York University early last week. 

“[Fenves] had a wonderful interview with the selection committee, and he was a top choice,” Hutchison said. “I think the Texas Exes are going to be very pleased because he has overwhelming support from the people that sent me their recommendations.”

Wood said she knows Fenves has a strong work ethic, as demonstrated by his early rising habits.

“I used to joke with him — I get up very early because I exercise before work, and so if I ever want to catch Greg, I know that five in the morning is the best time to send him an email,” Wood said. “I know I’ll get a response back immediately.”

In light of budget shortfalls in the state government, Jefferson Coombs, executive director of the Cal Alumni Association, said Fenves would be able to provide strong support for continued funding at UT.

“At this time when public research universities face a lot of challenges in terms of funding from the state, I think he’s a fantastic advocate for the impact and the power and the importance of public higher education,” Coombs said.

Coombs said he believes Fenves will continue and build upon Powers’ goal of maintaining clear lines of communication with the UT community.

“I really get the impression that he is going to not just maintain strong dialogue with students. I get the impression that he wants to expand it and that he is very personally enthusiastic about the connection with students,” Coombs said.

As provost, Fenves has helped lead the effort to launch the Dell Medical School and greenlight construction on the Engineering Education and Research Center, a $310 million, 430,000-square-foot building dedicated to research and student projects. The building is slated for completion in 2017.

Fenves serves on multiple committees at UT, including the Dean Search and the Dell Medical School Steering committees.

He has also received numerous national awards, including the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Walter L. Huber Research Prize, the Moisseiff Award, and the J. James R. Croes Medal.

Digital artist Casey Reas’ “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” is a new permanent art installation in the Gates Dell Complex. Commissioned in part by the computer science department, the wall mural will officially be unveiled Friday.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Casey Reas, a digital media artist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, can paint a picture with technology.

His unorthodox medium is what brought his two-part wall mural, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” to the Gates Dell Complex on campus as a permanent installation. The piece will be unveiled Friday afternoon, featuring a Q-and-A with Reas, followed by a reception.

The piece was commissioned through a partnership between Landmarks, the University’s public art program, and the computer science department. Reas made a point to visit the University before finalizing his installment. 

“A lot of the piece came out of my visit to campus earlier in the year,” Reas said. “My work for many years has worked with ideas of emergence and information theory, and it became a hybrid between ideas I had been working with, along with the research that is going on in the building by the different faculty.”

Reas took an original source material, communication media such as television waves and radio waves, and gradually broke down their codes until they appeared to be abstract.

“I start with a series of images, like a collage,” Reas said. “Then I write some software to break them down and reassemble them into a new form, and, in the case of this piece, that new form is printed. Even though it looks largely abstract, the origin of this piece is in a very representational photographic image.”

In collaboration with Landmarks, the computer science department was searching for a piece to complement the existing grid-like, structured art installations in the building. Artist Sol LeWitt’s sculpture installation, “Circle with Towers,” sits in front of the Gates Dell Complex.

“LeWitt was creating the instructions and using people to construct the work,” said Nickolas Nobel, the Landmarks external affairs coordinator. “Casey Reas is using the computer in order to create the design for the work and then using the computer itself to construct the work.”

Once Reas had the rendered image, the work was printed by inkjet printers onto a material similar to wallpaper. 

“The GDC feels very modern, and that contrasts it pretty hard,” computer science junior Robert Lynch said. “Something like the Sol LeWitt painting behind the elevators has vivid colors and sharp angles, which complement the building’s shape, which is why I like it.”

Nobel said much consideration went into the placement of Reas’ piece.

“The work is there to complement and be a response to its own location,” Nobel said. “This is particularly true with Casey Reas’ work, where he is synthesizing technology and art.”

The piece was largely inspired by the book “The Mathematical Theory of Communication,” by Claude Shannon, and Shannon’s views on information theory, according to Reas.

“I’m really interested in the fundamental elements in a metaphorical sense of patterns,” Reas said. “This piece is all about images and mass communication and about how images are taken apart and analyzed and put back together again, or how they are pressed and decompressed.”

Reas said the biggest misconception about his work is that the computers make all the decisions for him.  

“It’s a very traditional way of working in the studio,” Reas said. “It feels like there’s this potential that is unexplored, and there is just this joy of making things and seeing them.”

In a study involving 182 preschoolers, a child psychology researcher at the University discovered new learning capabilities in young children.

In their research, Cristine Legare, psychology assistant professor and Cognition, Culture and Development Lab director, and University of California, Berkeley psychology associate professor Tania Lombrozo concluded having young children explain how to do something helps them make connections that encourages cause-and-effect thinking.

“Cause-and-effect thinking is basically knowing how something works,” Legare said. “A child was more capable of putting [a toy] together if they had explained all the parts.”

The researchers compared explanatory thinking with observatory thinking by studying children as they put together a toy, after either observing the toy or being asked to explain certain parts of the toy and how they function.

“We created things that interact with each other,” Legare said. “The goal of the child is to see each thing and be able to put the big picture together.”

Legare and her team had a partnership with the Thinkery, a children’s museum in Austin, where most of the data was collected.

Misty Whited, museum marketing and communications manager, said being involved with local research helps them improve quality of learning for children.

“This research gives us knowledge to make the best decisions on what we can do better at our museum so children have great learning experiences,” Whited said.

Legare said child developmental research is in high demand amongst parents.

“Parents are curious,” Legare said. “They want to know how their child is learning about the world around them.”

According to Legare, a key part of children’s learning comes from a mechanical understanding of the things around them.

“Causality is core,” Legare said. “Understanding how things work together is a large part of child development.”

According to Jessica Church-Lang, assistant professor in psychology, the research findings could have big implications in the world of education.

“The results are good in the context of education theory,” Church-Lang said. “It can help us understand how kids best learn and how we can promote deep knowledge.”

Church-Lang said educating future teachers about their research and similar research will help integrate the research findings into classrooms.

“Implementing cognitive findings into classrooms isn’t always easy,” Church-Lang said. “But, teaching the students over in the education department about these new ways of thinking and learning will promote a better future.”

Professor Daniel Horowitz discusses Jewish feminism at the Liberal Arts Building on Thursday evening. The lecture covered feminism of the 1960s and feminist writer Betty Friedan.

A disproportionately high number of Jewish women influenced the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, according to Daniel Horowitz, an American studies professor from Smith College.

“There aren’t many prominent feminist writers of note in that period who weren’t Jewish,” Horowitz said.

In a lecture Thursday, Horowitz said he was a friend of Jewish writer Betty Friedan until he published the book “Betty Friedan and the Making of ‘The Feminine Mystique’” in 2000. The book exposed the secret of her communist past in the 1940s. According to Horowitz, Friedan’s first serious boyfriend at the University of California, Berkeley was a communist physics graduate student working on the atomic bomb. Horowitz said Friedan attempted to join the Communist Party herself in 1943, but was turned down because party leaders felt they already had enough intellectuals. In later years, Horowitz said, Friedan attempted to hide her radical past.

“There was a wonderful letter she wrote me once she realized what I was up to,” Horowitz said. “‘Dear Dan, How are you? How are the kids? How’s Helen?’ And then, ‘If you continue on this path, I will hire a lawyer and sue you.’”

According to Horowitz, Friedan did not write about Jewish culture in “The Feminine Mystique,” but instead focused the book on the struggle of middle class white women. Horowitz listed several other Jewish women who were a part of the feminist movement but never wrote about American Jews.

“They come out of a cosmopolitan universalist tradition in which the notion of womanhood or protestor is more important than the notion of Jewishness,” Horowitz said.

This may have been because they didn’t want their feminist goals to be overshadowed by their Jewish identity in the context of a wave of anti-Semitism in the middle of the 20th century, Horowitz said.

Sociology graduate student Carly Sheridan said she is currently taking a course about gender in the 1970s that has not mentioned the Jewish heritage of the feminists discussed in class.

“It’s not a popular topic that is often brought up,” Sheridan said. “These feminists are only known as feminists. I did not know they were Jewish.”

Robert Abzug, director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, said he asked Horowitz to come to the University because of his eminent work studying the crossovers between feminism and Jewish culture.

“His work, especially on Betty Friedan, opened up very big questions in the field on the roots of American feminism,” Abzug said. “He has now been developing the Jewish side of that.”

Photo Credit: Claire Trammel | Daily Texan Staff

Risky behaviors, such as drunk driving and unprotected sex, are caused by decreased self-control functions in the brain, despite prior beliefs that it was people’s desires that caused risk-taking, according to University researchers.

Sarah Helfinstein, postdoctoral integrative biology researcher, conducted brain activity studies using data collected at the University of California, Los Angeles. According to Helfinstein, most other risk-related studies focus on brain responses to different levels of risks, while her research focuses on brain activity before a risk is taken. 

“Even though the actual risk itself is the same, what the difference is, when you take the risk or when you don’t take the risk is activation in [self] control regions of the brain,” Helfinstein said.

Tom Schonberg, researcher in the Imaging Research Center at the University, said people don’t know whether a risk is beneficial or harmful until after they have already taken the risk. Schonberg said to study risk prediction further, focusing on brain activity right before a risk is taken is vital.

“The unique part of what [Helfinstein] did in this study is to look at what happens one step before deciding whether to stop or go on; before you know what is going to happen,” Schonberg said.

Russell Poldrack, director of the Imaging Research Center, said after years of brain function and control research, these analyses of the data are being used to help further understand the decision-making behind risky behavior.

“The goal of the project [is] to help us understand the brain systems that are involved in memory, executive function and control, risky behavior and how they all relate to each other,” Poldrack said.

The conclusions that researchers drew from these studies can be implemented in many different areas, according to Helfinstein. 

“It helps us understand better why people choose to take or not take health-relevant risks [like] smoking cigarettes, experimenting with drugs or having unprotected sex,” Helfinstein said.

Poldrack said the implications of this research could be much bigger in the future, and conclusions from these studies could affect the treatment of mental illness and the prediction of future criminal behavior.

“It is certainly relevant to some of the disorders in which people are known to take impulsive risks, like ADHD or, particularly, bipolar disorder,” Poldrack said.

This is just one step toward understanding how people can avoid dangerous risks, according to Helfinstein.

“If we can move on to better understand how to strengthen [self] control systems when confronted with these decisions, it might help people,” Helfinstein said.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After a nine-month search by a committee including educators, health professionals and students, the University introduced Clay Johnston as the inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School on Tuesday morning.

Johnston, who studied at Amherst University, Harvard University and the University of California–Berkeley, is currently the associate vice chancellor of research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of California–San Francisco School of Medicine. He will begin serving as dean March 1. 

The Dell Medical School, which went into planning in 2012 and was named last year, is in the final states of design and is expected to receive its first class of students in 2016. President William Powers, Jr. said Johnston was selected in part because of his forward-thinking vision for the school.

“We had a dozen fantastic people from around the country,” Powers said. “This really garnered a great deal of interest from some very high level people. [Johnston] is innovative and open and wants to help design a medical school in a new way. He is very interested in new forms of health care delivery, and he has worked and proven himself in the institute that he heads up — in his ability to work with many stakeholders in a complex situation.”

Johnston said he will try to use his role as dean to advance the way medical schools approach health care, which he believes should be more patient-centric.

“I think medical health care is really at an important juncture right now,” Johnston said. “My vision is to create a medical school that really represents where health care should be going, not where it’s been. That’s the beauty of starting from the ground up and then being able to take a look at how health care is working, how medical centers are working and design them for the next century.”

Unlike the six existing medical institutions within the UT System, which each have their own president, Powers said Dell Medical School will be a unit of the University.

Johnston, who plans to continue treating patients as dean, said all individuals involved in the Dell Medical School project have different expectations for his performance. He said he will be expected to deliver excellent care to patients, create multidisciplinary programs intended to advocate research and turn the school and research hospital into modes for economic development in the community. Johnston said one of the first challenges he faces will be prioritizing these objectives.

“The school is going to do all of those things, but when?” Johnston said. “You can’t do all of those things from day one or year one or even year five. So the biggest challenge is prioritizing amongst these critical goals and making excellent progress in all of these areas but managing the expectations so that people understand that it is impossible to grow this thing, even in five years, to the vision that all of us have for it.”

Robert Messing, vice provost for biomedical sciences and chairman of the search committee, once worked alongside Johnston in the neurology department at UC–San Francisco. Messing said he recommended Johnston and one other individual early in the search process for the dean.

“We were faculty members in the same department, which had more than 120 faculty members and spanned four affiliated hospitals,” Messing said. “Our relationship has always been more professional than personal, and those professional interactions definitely helped me recognize him as a strong candidate. I’ve always been incredibly impressed by him whenever our paths have crossed.”

According to Messing, the search committee unanimously recommended Johnston for the dean position because of his work at UC–San Francisco.

“At UCSF, he’s been the leader of one of the largest Clinical Translation Science Institutes funded by National Institutes of Health, which takes research innovations and translates them to patient care,” Messing said. “And he directs the UCSF Center for Healthcare Value which leverages research and clinical practice to reduce costs, increase value and enable innovation.”

Seton Healthcare Family, which runs several hospitals in Austin, committed $295 million to build a teaching hospital for students enrolled at Dell Medical School last year. UT also has a partnership with Travis County Central Health, a county organization which works to give health care access to Austin’s poor. Last year, Travis County voters approved a property tax increase to support the new medical school and teaching hospital.

President William Powers Jr. speaks in the Avaya Auditorium in January. He called for increasing UT’s efficiency by cutting costs.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Last week’s high-profile hearings of Regent Wallace Hall have highlighted what some see as a vendetta against UT President William Powers Jr. It has also brought out many of the president’s supporters, such as UT Student Government President Horacio Villarreal and Andrew Clark, president of the Senate of College Councils, who defended Powers for making the University competitive internationally.

The criticism from right-leaning regents centers on issues such as the Law School’s loan of $500,000 to former dean Larry Sager, personal administrative grudges and long-standing disagreements between Powers and the regents over tuition increases. On Powers’ left, some student activists and professors resist not only tuition hikes, but also cuts to cultural studies programs. But beyond specific issues, the larger debate is: How should we see our University? As a business? A factory? Or as a training ground teaching scholars to ask the tough questions?

In an environment where UT depends increasingly on private funds instead of state support, the idea of the university as a place for intellectual entrepreneurship replaces the idea of the university as a place for apprenticeship for critical thought. This shift dates back to the founding of mass public education and the case of Clark Kerr, who was president of the University of California in the 1960s and is considered the intellectual founder of the post-war U.S. public university.  

A conflict between students and Kerr arose out of student defiance of Kerr’s ban on student political activity, and widened into a direct challenge of the vision he had created of a university at the service of private industry and national interests. As investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld points out in his book “Subversives,” the University of California Board of Regents saw Kerr’s subsequent negotiation with students as threatening traditional university culture. Students saw the ban as one more example that Kerr was an agent of the “machine” that used the language of business and progress to stifle larger systemic debates. Today, Powers is portrayed by some regents as an embattled president not interested enough in four-year graduation rates and evaluation-based salaries. Budget-cut protesters see a mainstream president without the political will or wherewithal to defend vulnerable humanities programs. 

UT’s and Berkeley’s conflicts and circumstances differ. Nevertheless, Kerr’s language during a period of economic prosperity, is strikingly similar to that of Powers, whose University faces a tightening budget despite Texas’ growth in the recession. Kerr, like Powers, was wedged between two factions — those in the university systems who wanted a more conformist university, and student activists who wanted a “humane” university involved in political struggles. Powers, like Kerr, emphasizes a harmonious vision of diversity in which competing interests dialogue with him, the arbitrator and the manager. Kerr’s speeches from that era are not that different from Powers’ most recent addresses. Powers often speaks in his State of the University Addresses of the University as a “business” that tries to maximize output in its “core competencies” to get maximum “return on investment.” Kerr spoke of the university “as a knowledge factory” in which the president was a “mediator” that facilitated the “production” of new research for private industry and national growth. 

On the other side of the conceptual debate stood student activist Mario Savio. Savio argued that if Kerr saw the university as a firm with “the regents as the Board of Directors” and Kerr as the “manager,” students are “the raw material” to “be bought by clients.” He disagreed with Kerr’s business metaphor, saying students were human beings, not fodder for business. For university activists protesting the Faustian bargain of more budget cuts or higher tuition in the midst of new construction, these words are prophetic.

If we historically contextualize last week’s hearings, students will realize that ideological pressures, not economic circumstances, motivate university officials to reshape how we think about the role of a university education and our own humanity. As actors in this play, students should take a cue from Savio and question whether wrestling with tough economic times necessarily implies that we must become merely “efficient” consumers shopping for a university product.

Knoll is a first-year master’s student in Latin American studies from Dallas. Follow Knoll on Twitter @tknoll209K.

President William Powers Jr. was named the University of California at Berkeley’s Alumnus of the year for 2014.

Powers received his undergraduate chemistry degree at UC-Berkeley in 1967. 

According to UC-Berkeley’s website, Powers was honored with the position for his experience in the U.S. Navy, managing editor of the Harvard Law Review, legal consultant to the U.S. Congress and the Brazilian legislature, as well has his role as UT president. 

“As president, Powers has made great progress in transforming UT into one of the finest public research universities in the nation,” the statement said. “He has strengthened the undergraduate core curriculum, inaugurated the School of Undergraduate Studies and aggressively recruited a diverse student body and faculty.” 

Powers joins various UC-Berkeley professors holding the Alumnus of the Year title.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

The Engineering Sciences Building — a 50-year-old facility that houses the University’s electrical engineering program — has run its life course. 

Ceilings open up to exposed pipes and wires, electrical fans cool computer servers in a hot building and a study room is closed every summer because it does not have air conditioning. In this industrial building, professors teach students 21st-century engineering without modern labs. But after several years of fundraising and planning, the Cockrell School of Engineering is set to begin constructing the $310 million Engineering Education and Research Center to replace the Engineering Sciences Building. With 430,000 square feet of classrooms, labs and offices, the new building will become the second biggest academic building behind Welch Hall. 

Engineering dean Greg Fenves said students will learn modern engineering through a hands-on approach in the new building, which will create more spaces for collaborative research. He said this is a necessity in engineering education that the college has struggled to meet with existing facilities.

“There are dramatic changes taking place in how we educate engineers. It’s moving from the classroom to the laboratory,” said Fenves, who will leave his position as dean and become the University’s provost in October. “We are severely limited by our facilities because they were never designed to do this. They were designed to teach students sitting in chairs that are bolted to the floor with a professor at the blackboard at the front.” 

The Engineering Sciences Building was built in 1963 for applied physics research. In the 50 years since, the building has become home to electrical engineering students — the Cockrell School of Engineering’s largest undergraduate program. 

Perry Durkee, the building manager who has worked in the Engineering Sciences Building for 32 years, said it has constantly been patched up with construction and renovation projects.

“It’s been in a constant state of change. The building was built for one purpose, and we have used it for another purpose,” Durkee said. “We’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of trouble trying to make it look more modern. But it’s a lost cause now.”

Fenves said the building was constructed in an age when vacuum tubes, which were retired decades ago, were used in radios, and electronic integrated circuits were much simpler with seven components rather than billions of components that make them up today. 

The lack of modern labs has hurt the engineering school’s ability to recruit top faculty, Durkee said.

“It’s impossible to say how many faculty recruits we’ve lost when they’ve come to this building to see it,” Durkee said.

Even though most of UT’s engineering buildings are older than those of other universities, including Texas A&M University and the University of California-Berkeley, the University’s engineering program has remained competitively ranked.

“We have primarily been doing well because we’ve been so successful in hiring great faculty,” Fenves said. “But that is getting tougher to do because of our facilities. We will not be able to continue without the new facilities.”

Meanwhile, Durkee said the building has several other issues, including an air conditioning system that is no longer sufficient to support the number of people who occupy the building. 

Earlier this summer, smoke from the air conditioning system caused the fire alarms to go off and led to a building evacuation. Meanwhile at the Texas Capitol, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have provided $2.7 billion in state funding for higher education construction projects, including the proposed Engineering Education and Research Center. Following the failed bill, the UT System Board of Regents approved up to $150 million in available funds the University could borrow to supplement fundraising efforts to finance the new building earlier this month. 

The Engineering Education and Research Center is the first of nine construction projects in the school’s “Master Facility Plan,” which aims to construct six new facilities and renovate three outdated engineering buildings on campus. 

“The plan is very logical, very well laid out and visionary. But it was very clear that the first step had to be a building in the center of our engineering precinct,” Fenves said. “It had to replace [the Engineering Sciences Building].”

Unlike the current facilities, Fenves said the new building will allow for interdisciplinary research and entrepreneurial efforts, and its facilities will be adaptable to changes in engineering education.

“We don’t know exactly what kind of research is going to be done in the labs in the next 10, 20 or 50 years,” Fenves said. “It’s going to change. We’ve never had facilities like that before.” 

Associate engineering dean John Ekerdt said the University is still making final decisions on a timeline for building the new facilities, but construction on the building could begin late in 2014 or early 2015. The building is set to open in 2018.

While the building is being constructed, Fenves said the college will disperse classes, labs and faculty to other buildings. He said undergraduate instructional labs will move to Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall, and many faculty and graduate students will move to an administrative building on the corner of 17th and Guadalupe Streets.

“It’s important that everybody understand that there will be disruption, and we’re going to try to minimize it, but the benefit of that destruction is moving back to an incredible, state-of-the-art facility,” Fenves said.

slideshow courtesy of the Cockrell School of Engineering

 

Created with flickr slideshow.

 

According to a recent ranking, The Cockrell School of Engineering graduates is the third highest number of minority students. 

The Cockrell School graduated 441 minority students in the 2011-2012 academic year, 41 percent of its senior minority students according to a statement by the University of Texas. Since the previous academic year, The Cockrell School has increased its minority graduation rate by 12% according to the statement. The ranking, published by the “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education” magazine placed the School of Engineering behind Georgia Institute of Technology and The University of California at Berkeley.

According to Enrique Dominguez, Director of the Equal Opportunity in Engineering (EOE) Program, much of that progress has come from the EOE program’s initiatives. The program was founded in the 1970’s with the goal of increasing diversity in the school.

The EOE program divides its programs into three categories: the precollege category, the academic category and the leadership & professional development category.

The My Introduction to Engineering — a part of the EOE precollege program — is a week-long summer camp open to rising high school juniors to explore the engineering field.

Mechanical engineering senior Miguel Fraga, who participated in the summer camp before coming to the University, said he attributed much of his interest in the field to his attendance. 

“What really got me was when I attended the camp and got to see the campus and what engineering at UT was all about,” Fraga said.

The academic programming focuses on EOE First Year Interest Groups (FIGs), which consist of approximately 20 students, a FIG tutor, an EOE mentor and faculty member.  Students in the same FIG register to be in the same core classes.

“The FIG helped make UT feel smaller than it is,” civil engineering senior Luis Galindo said. 

Galindo, who returned to the FIG program as a mentor, said he enjoys being an available resource to freshmen.

“I am there as the person to help them to reach their fullest potential,” he said.

To prepare students for success after college, the professional and leadership initiatives include events throughout the year, such as EXPO 101 — which introduces an array of topics from “the handshake and introduction to what to wear” to the engineering career fair, Dominguez said.

To continue on the trend of increasing minority graduation rates, Dominguez said the EOE program will focus on connecting students to resources, including co-ops, internships and study abroad.