UTPB forms partnership with XTO Energy

Posted on May 14, 2019

College of Engineering agreement adds to those in existence with MC, OC

ODESSA — The University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s College of Engineering recently formed partnerships with XTO Energy, Midland College and Odessa College — possibly giving the program a larger competitive advantage over other higher-education engineering programs nationwide.

The program recently began targeting students as young as 11 — hoping to generate an interest — and now makes it easier to transfer from local community colleges to the UTPB engineering program.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said Monday the university’s engineering program already has a high level of excellence, with its graduates scoring nearly 10 percentage points higher than the national average on the fundamentals of engineering exam. But now, students will excel in a way they haven’t before, she said.

“We believe the work (College of Engineering Dean) George Nnanna is doing here in the program will really highlight internships and experiential learning — which can be a differentiator for this university,” Woodley said. “We are right in the heart of where energy is happening, and in (their) own backyards, students can go out and have these hands-on learning experiences that are just not present in other places, no matter how good they are.

“So, we plan to take full advantage of our partnerships with companies like XTO, Pioneer, Chevron — all of them — to be able to make sure we have that two-way connection with them and that we are meeting the needs they have for graduates,” Woodley said.

Though the university has several close long-term partners, the three newest collaborations are with XTO, MC and OC.

Partnership with XTO

Through their partnership, UTPB and XTO – a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp. — will host a summer engineering camp for students in sixth through 11th grades.

“It will be experiential learning, focused primarily on aerospace, electrical, chemical and petroleum engineering,” Nnanna said. “The program will be very interactive in terms of students that are interested in engineering and other disciplines.”

Nnanna said he expects 40 to 50 students will attend each camp, even with its required selection criteria of teacher recommendations and GPA standards.

The program will be very rigorous, he said. But it will also be interactive and allow students to do hands-on lab work with computer-aided design, robotics and petroleum and mechanical engineering.

The students will get the chance to talk with current students and faculty, and guest speakers from the local industry will discuss career opportunities.

Woodley said the engineering partnership is a way to ensure that the Permian Basin will have a future workforce.

“This (program) squarely fits into the heart of our long-term strategic plan, that is: making sure what we do at the university is relevant to what is needed in the region,” Woodley said. “We really step up and try to make a difference here.”

She said UTPB’s research has shown that less than 12 percent of the nearly 400,000 residents in the Midland-Odessa community have a baccalaureate degree and she believes connecting students at a younger age creates the possibility of them staying and working in the Permian Basin.

Partnership with Midland College

In April 2018, the two institutions signed an official articulation agreement that would combine courses from both schools into one degree plan.

Nnanna said, a year later, UTPB and MC officials are in the process of finalizing that agreement.

“The purpose of co-enrollment is to provide students at Midland College a pathway to complete a degree program within a short time,” Nnanna said.

He said this means students will be enrolled at MC and can concurrently take courses at UTPB, for the university’s degree plans. This provides an easy transition for students, who will receive a consistent education and not have to retake any courses or add new courses onto the plan.

“(The agreement) between Midland College and UTPB will ensure that the transition process for engineering students from one institution to another is seamless,” MC President Steve Thomas said in a press release. “It will also provide students with a better understanding of the course requirements for an engineering baccalaureate program, thereby allowing them to save time and money by making the best course selection choices.”

 Partnership with Odessa College

UTPB and OC signed an official Pathways Articulation Agreement on April 4. It is the first agreement between the two campuses that has course levels specifically identified for the four-year “pathways” it takes to earn a baccalaureate degree.

“This agreement will make the transition from OC to UTPB even better for our students who want to continue their education and earn their baccalaureate degrees,” OC President Gregory Williams said in a press release. “We will continue to refine these pathways as we go forward.”

While the transfer agreement impacts the two institutions across various programs, it is expected to create an easier transition for engineering students.

Among the 34 OC to UTPB transfer “crosswalks” that have been implemented are Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering and Bachelor of Science in Geology (Petroleum).

“This partnership is important, in order to best serve students in our region and beyond,” Woodley said in a press release. “Working with Odessa College allows us to help students navigate the path to earn their baccalaureate degree. We are committed to being student-focused and responsive to our community.”

Aside from partnering with the two local two-year colleges, Woodley said she hopes UTPB can collaborate with other universities, including the Texas A&M University System and Texas Tech.

She said the university will continue to focus on creating programs that can meet the needs of all students in the Permian Basin, but engineering has the primary role.

“We already have a great engineering school,” Woodley said. “It is one of our premier programs. There is no doubt that in the Permian Basin, the College of Engineering is going to be a leader in moving this university forward. We will continue to grow an already excellent program for a larger number of grads, but also to make sure the quality we have in place remains strong.”