Welcome Back: What Miners Need to Know as Fall Semester Begins
Last Updated on August 20, 2021 at 12:00 AM
Originally published August 20, 2021
By Daniel Perez
After more than a year of mostly remote learning, leaders at The University of Texas at El Paso made plans to welcome students back to campus for the fall 2021 semester in a bigger, bolder way than ever before.
“Miner Welcome” kicked off Aug. 19 with a move-in day for students living on campus and will continue with 48 events during 17 days leading up to the Miners’ home football opener Sept. 4 in Sun Bowl Stadium. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 23.
Miner Welcome activities, which are mostly being held outdoors, are designed to engage students as they transition back to campus. The activities will have food, music and giveaways, but they also will highlight University venues, services, outreach, school spirit and opportunities for personal growth as well as campus and community involvement.
In addition to the back-to-school festivities, the University is introducing three new in-demand degree plans this fall that will expand UTEP’s academic scope and reach, as well as a “green” initiative that saves energy and cuts costs across campus.
One of the key organizers behind Miner Welcome is Charlin Jones-Chávez, Ph.D., assistant dean of students for engagement. Jones-Chávez said that the committee created the welcome activities with everyone in mind. Some of the highlights are Texas Western Gold Rush on Aug. 23, Minerpalooza on Aug. 27 and the Get Involved Fair on Sept. 1 and 2.
Texas Western Gold Rush is a new celebration focused on campus traditions from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 23 at Centennial Plaza. It will include performances by the UTEP Dance Team, cheerleaders and the Marching Miners ensemble, and some remarks by President Wilson, Student Government Association President Austin Stephens, athletics coaches and faculty researchers who will encourage students to connect with the University. Student attendees will receive snacks and giveaways. The event will conclude with a spectacular 10-minute fireworks show around Centennial Plaza and additional performances by local competitors in the Battle of the Bands that will conclude at Minerpalooza.
Speaking of Minerpalooza, the annual communitywide back-to-school bash and pep rally will run from 6 to 11 p.m. Aug. 27, in the parking lots along Sun Bowl Drive and Glory Road. The 31st edition of this family-friendly celebration will have food, games and music. About 40 Greek Life and student organizations will operate carnival-style activity booths as a fundraiser. The booths include face painting, loteria, ring toss, a photo booth and a beanbag toss. The main scheduled performers are rap and hip-hop artists Coolio, Petey Pablo and the Ying Yang Twins. Other entertainment includes the Battle of the Bands finale, which is new this year. The Dance Team, cheerleaders and Marching Miners ensemble will perform and there will be remarks from representatives of the football team. The event is free, but attendees must purchase tickets to buy food, beverages and to play the games. There also will be a food truck park in the Glory Road parking lot, and a beer and wine garden near the Larry K. Durham Sports Center. Parents may want to take their children to Pete’s Playground at Glory Field.
The Get Involved Fair will inform students about the University’s more than 230 registered student organizations, as well as approximately 50 student affairs and academic affairs departments, along with more than a dozen community and civic engagement opportunities from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 1-2, at Centennial Plaza, the Geology Lawn and Leech Grove. Additionally, the Work @ UTEP job fair will be at Leech Grove.
“It really is choose your own adventure,” Jones-Chávez said about the numerous Miner Welcome events. “These are opportunities for the students to come out, have some fun and get to know each other to build relationships and a sense of belonging as Miners.”
In an effort to maintain as safe an environment as possible, Jones-Chávez encouraged Miner Welcome participants to wear a mask where possible and to take advantage of the many hand sanitizer stations that will be available.
Food, Facilities and Parking
UTEP’s Facilities Management continues to work on its energy-saving project that involves about 40 high-traffic buildings on campus. The work includes the replacement of fluorescent light fixtures with new LED lamps. Greg McNicol, associate vice president of business affairs – facilities management, said that the new fixtures also would improve the efficiency of the campus heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
On Aug. 23, the University will restart the free Miner Metro shuttle service with the two most highly used routes. The orange line runs from Miner Canyon residential housing on the north end of campus to Miner Alley, located behind the Sun Bowl Parking Garage. The Campbell (Red) line serves those who travel between the Mike Loya Academic Services Building on the south end of campus and the Campbell Building, 1101 N. Campbell St. Both routes will run nonstop from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and will operate on 15-minute intervals if traffic allows. Check out the routes and stops at UTEP's interactive campus map. The CDC requires that Miner Metro riders wear a face covering while aboard the shuttle.
As for campus parking, students and employees interested in purchasing a parking pass should visit the Parking and Transportation Services website to see what is available. Parking enforcement on campus will begin the first day of classes to ensure that parking spaces are available to those who bought permits.
The University will launch a face-to-face bachelor’s degree in aerospace and aeronautical engineering (AAE), and online master’s degrees in early childhood education (ECE) and literacy education this academic year.
The AAE will be in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, which has had a strong focus on aerospace engineering in research and instruction for the past decade and has served as a pipeline for new engineers into that industry for 20 years.
Jack Chessa, Ph.D., professor and department chair, said the department was motivated to offer this degree because of its past efforts by faculty and students.
“(This) will give our students even more opportunities moving forward in this area,” Chessa said. “Currently we are one of the top producers of Hispanic mechanical engineers in the aerospace industry, and we fully expect to be the top producer of Hispanic aerospace engineers in the future.”
The University of Texas System Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the new degree plan. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is reviewing the plan and UTEP officials expect SACSCOC to approve it soon.
In the College of Education, Alyse Hachey, Ph.D., associate professor and co-chair of the Department of Teacher Education, transitioned the two graduate degrees to fully online plans to enhance the University’s abilities to meet the needs of instructors beyond the Paso del Norte region.
The department designed the ECE for busy educators who want to become instructional leaders in how children ages 0 to 8 learn best in varied and inclusive early care and educational settings. The degree focuses on child development and early childhood learning theory, curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on socioeconomically diverse children and their families.
The literacy degree will prepare specialized professionals who can develop in-depth knowledge of literacy research, theory and practice with a focus on literacy education in linguistically diverse settings. Students will participate in applied research and field experiences that focus on diverse learners and expanded conceptions of literacy in the digital age.
Hachey said she hoped that these degree plans would generate more teachers, curriculum specialists and administrators with the necessary skills to work with young children at the local, state and national levels. She offered data that showed a shortage of qualified teachers in the areas of literacy and early childhood education.
“We’re responding to the needs of the children and the teachers that serve them,” Hachey said. “We’re excited about these programs and have others in development.”