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Anahy Diaz | February 10, 2021

Engineering Innovation: UTEP Program Builds Future Engineering Leaders

Engineering Innovation UTEP Program Builds Future Engineering Leader


Zachary Chanoi recalls feeling inexperienced and emotionally lost when he enrolled as a sixteen-year-old at The University of Texas at El Paso in Fall 2017. However, all that quickly changed when he discovered a supportive and diverse community in the Engineering Education and Leadership Department.

As Chanoi, and many other students have discovered, the College of Engineering’s Department of Engineering Education and Leadership is changing the way the field is taught. The department’s newly re-named Engineering Innovation and Leadership (E-Lead) bachelors of science degree formerly known as Engineering Leadership serves as an example of its commitment to provide students with a diverse foundation of engineering knowledge and real-life skills for future leadership roles. The addition of “Innovation” to the degree name aims to highlight the department’s framework and theory behind innovation coupled with leadership in an engineering environment, a mindset taught to students throughout the degree. This allows students to develop and demonstrate an understanding of innovation in the context of an engineering practice.

“E-Lead has taught me the fundamentals of engineering practice that will be imperative for my future success in engineering,” Chanoi said. “What I have gained exclusively from E-Lead is an appreciation for profound leadership.”

In order to create a well-rounded engineer, E-Lead students are taught to build a strong character through individuality. Students can choose from various paths of study within engineering, with the addition of elective hours including technical engineering, or outside of a traditional engineering degree, including business, education, liberal arts, and pre-law/pre-med.

Such was the case for Aaron Woods, who chose to pursue an E-Lead degree which allowed him to combine his creativity and joy of music with his passion for creativity, problem-solving, and business acumen. Since then, he has improved his capacity and confidence in problem-solving through internships with Sonora Bank, Beacon Hill Recording Studios, and research related to neuroscience.

“The biggest lesson I learned was the importance of understanding who you are and what you want to prioritize and going after that to the best of your ability,” Woods said.

E-Lead provides an emphasis in competence through collaborative, project-based learning experiences to help students apply leadership theory while applying their technical knowledge. All E-Lead classes are taught in a studio environment where students can engage and learn alongside a diverse group of aspiring engineers with different interests.

“In life, whether it is fellow students, coworkers, friends, or even family, we are always surrounded by others,” Chanoi said. “E-Lead has taught me to take initiative, ensure all voices and opinions are heard and genuinely considered.”

“Graduates of the engineering leadership program are unique to UTEP and in the U.S. for their abilities to work in and to manage teams,” said David Novick, Ph.D., professor of engineering education and leadership at UTEP. “The graduates’ combination of engineering knowledge plus skills in leadership and innovation enable them to pursue careers that can bring significant beneficial change to the world.”

E-Lead students are presented with diverse team-based challenges that incorporate multiple disciplines and enhance a student’s capacity. From project managing to research, students have the ability to excel at diverse roles such as teaching or managing companies. These roles are taught within the degree to encourage students to solve problems as a group and not individually, Woods explained.

“The graduates are highly sought-after by a variety of major companies because the graduates can immediately step into roles with significant responsibility,” Novick said.

“You have to have people skills, you have to think broadly,” Woods said. “Hyper focus on a solution and iterate. This relates because the formula for a project’s success is the same for the formula for life success.”

The formula Woods refers to is one Chanoi has developed three years later as a confident, experienced and hardworking graduate of the department who will pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering at UTEP.

“I have no doubt in my ability to succeed because of my experience within E-Lead,” Chanoi said. “The students and faculty of E-Lead are like family to me. I felt extremely alone entering college, thanks to E-Lead, I know there are always people there for me.”

To learn more about the Engineering Innovation and Leadership degree, visit

College of Engineering Communications

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