UTSA launches chemical engineering degree program to fill an unmet need in south Texas

(Feb. 7, 2017) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has launched a bachelor's degree program in chemical engineering to provide south Texans with greater access to top-tier engineering education.

A $1 million gift from The Klesse Foundation will help support the program, enabling the acquisition of new equipment, including a two story distillation column, and funding the newly created Margie and Bill Klesse Endowed Scholarship in Chemical Engineering.

UTSA's chemical engineering students will have the option to specialize in one of five areas: petroleum and energy systems, environmental engineering, materials engineering, bioengineering, or technology management.

"By offering a chemical engineering degree, we certainly fill that emphatic call for a program that is not readily available at many schools in this region," said JoAnn Browning, dean and David and Jennifer Spencer Distinguished Chair of the College of Engineering. "And also of note, we are offering a new degree that traditionally attracts more aspiring female engineers. This will allow us to make a tremendous impact on the percentage of women in STEM."

Women only make up about 20 percent of engineering enrollment across the country, whereas 35 percent of chemical engineering students are female. Browning also noted that chemical engineers address a broad range of issues that allow them to make a difference in their communities. Graduates of chemical engineering programs are highly sought-after in a wide variety of industries, including oil and gas, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals as well as environmental and materials engineering.

"Chemical engineers are in high in-demand in Texas and have a great positive impact on their environments. Our country needs more engineering and a pragmatic approach to problem-solving," said Bill Klesse, founder of The Klesse Foundation. "Chemical engineers' careers can go in many directions, including manufacturing industrial goods as well as the refining and petrochemical industries, to help make people's live better. We are very pleased to be able to support UTSA's new program to enhance our community with a new generation of talented, top-tier engineers."

Klesse, the former CEO of Valero Energy Corporation, and his wife, Margie Klesse, have a long history of supporting higher education. Over the past five years alone, they have supported the creation of a College of Engineering Scholarship, the Diamond Shamrock Legacy Endowed Scholarship for the College of Engineering and the Diamond Shamrock Legacy Endowed Scholarship for the College of Business.

"We will be providing very well-trained chemical engineers," said Ruyan Guo, Robert E. Clarke Endowed Professor and the new program's interim director. "This industry needs talented engineers and UTSA is the institution that will provide the best education to train these promising young students. By offering interdisciplinary knowledge, we'll allow them to explore and be creative with their training while developing their skills as leaders."

"Foremost in our mind is that this program is a critical piece in the puzzle for raising the educational profile of the region by providing a new and creative type of engineering training. And we can do this while we attract even greater diversity at UTSA," Browning said. "We are much better served when we have diversity in the classroom and the workplace."

UTSA has already received more than 70 applications to fill the 30 chemical engineering spots that are available in its fall 2017 entering class.

The UTSA College of Engineering is a major public provider of undergraduate and graduate engineering in South Texas with enrollment exceeding 3,300 students. The college has seen an unprecedented increase of more than 100 percent in graduate enrollment in the past few years and continues to grow steady with the mission to provide outstanding education and research opportunities and service to the region's multicultural community, the nation and beyond.

- Joanna Carver


Learn more about the UTSA Chemical Engineering Program.

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