A University of Houston program, intended to help meet the workforce needs of the energy industry, along with several of its students, last week got a boost from area engineers.
Inspired by the fall 2009 start of the new undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering for which they helped develop curriculum, members of the Cullen College of Engineering's Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board dipped into their own pockets and raised $13,500.
The total was more than triple their intended goal of $3,500. Their generosity afforded seven petroleum students $500 cash awards and $10,000 to the petroleum program. All were presented last Tuesday night at the UH Engineering Alumni Association (EAA) Engineers Week Reception and Program.
“We looked at the gift like it was part of the boards function—to be a supporting family for the program,“ said D. Ronald Harrell, a retired petroleum engineer and chair of the advisory board. He challenged members late last year to donate their own money to fund the monetary awards for students in the program. He wasn’t surprised, he admitted, that they ended up earning excess funds.
“We are all very passionate about education, and getting an undergraduate degree established at UH was something many of us have been working years on,” he said. “I think its only natural that our board members would want to support this.”
Held annually in conjunction with National Engineers Week (Feb. 15-21), the event, much like the week, is designed to celebrate engineers and raise awareness about their benefit to society.
Cynthia Oliver Coleman, the Engineers Week Chair and president of the EAA, founded the event six years ago to provide cash and recognition to Cullen College students.
“Engineers Week is important because it is a time to celebrate the worldwide significant contributions of engineers,” said Coleman “Our UH EAA Engineers Week Reception and Program is a UH-specific celebration to perpetuate the important legacy of engineers by supporting future engineers, our UH engineering students. It is designed to focus on all types of engineers and how they impact our world.”
In its history, the event has raised $129,200 to support this mission with the help of dedicated UH engineering alumni. At this year’s event, a total of $33,000 was presented to four organizations and 37 students in the form of monetary awards recognizing their achievements.
Among the activities, four student organizations—named as finalists in the event’s Engineering Community Outreach Competition—showed off posters detailing how they are making a difference in the area. Taking first place, and the $1,000 prize from FMC Technologies was the Society of Women Engineers. Their project brought about 70 high school girls to the UH campus to better connect the girls with some of the technologies that surround them by sharing the engineering and science concepts behind each in a series of five workshops. The goal, SWE President Hina Rehman said, was to encourage girls to pursue a career in engineering—a field typically dominated by men.
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers took home the second $500 prize for their outreach project with written and hands-on exercises for participants from six high schools that focused on the importance of clean water.
Overall, 16 sponsors contributed this year to provide cash awards for students and organizations. But, by far, the largest gift was the Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board’s donation. Its impact for the new program, will no doubt, be significant, said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chair of the college’s department of chemical and biomolecular engineering where the program is housed.
“The generosity of the Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board, with their time and monetary gifts, is truly invaluable to the growth of the program,” said Krishnamoorti. “The selfless dedication of the board and their tireless advocacy for the growth of the petroleum engineering at the University of Houston is truly commendable and, is in no small measure, the driving force for the growth of the program. The generous monetary gift will be used to provide additional financial resources to deserving undergraduate and graduate students to develop highly talented next generation petroleum engineers.”