UTEP Profiles: Meet Dr. Santiago

Last Updated on July 31, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published July 31, 2017

By UC Staff

UTEP Communications

Name: Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D.

Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D.
Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D.

Department/College: College of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering

What do you teach?

I teach civil and environmental engineering courses (undergraduate and graduate). I am also the coordinator of the Civil Engineering Senior Design capstone courses, director of the Hydraulics Laboratory, and coordinator of accreditation for the department.

How long have you been a teacher?

I have been a teacher for about 25 years. I have taught at the elementary, high school, community college and university levels, here at UTEP and at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.

What’s your favorite classroom activity or teaching technique?

I like hands-on activities inside and outside of the classroom with real-life projects where I can show my students the connection between their education and professional practice. 

What background and experience do you have in your field of study that benefits your students?

I have a Ph.D. in civil engineering with a specialization in environmental engineering from New Mexico State University, a master’s of engineering in environmental systems engineering from Clemson University, and a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. Having been an educator from beginning (PK3) to end (graduate school) in different cultural settings has allowed me to develop my skills in dealing with a full spectrum of educational and cultural backgrounds. I have practical experience and knowledge in water and wastewater utility systems and regulations and I am a licensed Professional Environmental Engineer in Texas and Puerto Rico.

I worked as a professional engineering consultant to the comptroller of Puerto Rico in the technical evaluation of operation, performance and compliance of the 10 largest water and wastewater treatment plants in Puerto Rico. 

I am an appointed member of the El Paso Water Public Service Board (PSB), and I am on my third term as a member of the Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Committee (NAC). The NAC advises the administrator of the EPA on environmental policy issues related to the implementation of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. I was also a member of The Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB) that advises the President and Congress of the United States on good neighbor practices along the U.S. border with Mexico.

I have developed and expanded on successful collaborations with El Paso Water, the City of El Paso, the County of El Paso and nongovernment organizations for Senior Design projects.

What do your students like best about your classes?

One thing that my students like both best and least is that I always have them working in groups, just like in the real world.

What do you love most about being a teacher?

Teaching is an affair of the heart. John Cotton Dana, a librarian during the late 1800s, once said: “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” I have always had a love and passion for learning. Teaching allows me to be a student by learning new things and new ways of teaching, and then take that knowledge and share it with my students. In Haiti, we are building a conduit by taking water from one place, processing and transporting it to benefit a community of people. In teaching, it is the same thing: I am just a conduit that receives knowledge from one place and transports it to a community of students.

What are your hobbies? When you’re not teaching, grading or preparing for classes, what are you doing?

I like cooking, gardening, reading, hiking, camping, rock hounding (you should see my collection of zeolite crystals in my office), watching sci-fi (trekie and Star Wars fan) and murder-mystery movies (especially the British).

What’s your favorite place on campus?

The Lhakhang.

What’s your favorite UTEP event, and why?

Pre-Commencement at the College of Engineering. It is an “intimate” celebration of the culmination of the efforts of our students where they also commit to abide to the values and ethical standards of the engineering profession.

What advice would you give to an incoming UTEP student?

You are now the captain of your own ship, so take the rudder!

Get actively engaged in student organizations, become a part of UTEP. Run for an officer position within the organization, even if it scares you. Extracurricular activities help you develop the soft skills that you may not have a chance to learn inside the classroom. 

Do not be afraid to ask questions. Never apologize to a professor for asking questions or going to his/her office with questions. That is our job!

Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Never miss out on a good opportunity, never think you are not good enough to apply to an internship, scholarship or job.

Be an intentional learner every day, not just the day before an exam.

Know your degree plan. You won’t know how long it will take you to get there unless you know where you start and end. No one goes anywhere these days without their GPS. Your degree plan is the GPS for your career.