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NMSU, University of Chihuahua prepare joint Ph.D. program in civil engineering

New Mexico State University's College of Engineering and the University of Chihuahua have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a joint-doctoral program in civil engineering.

Standing at left, College of Engineering Dean Steven P. Castillo watches as New Mexico State University officials, sitting from left, Interim Department Head of Civil Engineering Ricardo Jacquez and NMSU Interim President Waded Cruzado, and Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua President C. P. Raul Chavez Espinoza and M.C. Oscar Herrera Lagunas, director of the engineering college at UACH, sign a Memorandum of Understanding to create a joint-Ph.D. program in civil engineering.

"This is expanding the international arena that NMSU plays in, and the impact the university has, not only in New Mexico and the United States, but internationally," said Steven P. Castillo, dean of the College of Engineering at NMSU.

The Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua (UACH) approached NMSU this year seeking a means to bring advanced civil engineering programs into their curriculum. UACH felt a grave need to have a pool of civil engineers that would help with rebuilding Mexico's infrastructure and NMSU's expertise in civil engineering was the right ticket to help meet that need.

"Mexico, like the U.S., has a big need for improvement of their infrastructure - meaning highways, water systems, buildings and bridges and anything civil engineers have to do that serve the general public," explained Ricardo Jacquez, interim department head for civil and geological engineering at NMSU. "In their particular case, transportation is a big need. They have a need to improve their transportation systems, including bridges and pavements."

UACH has a need to educate at a higher level, meaning they need civil engineers who are qualified to do research as opposed to the design work, Jacquez said.

"They (UACH) came to NMSU because we have an established Ph.D. program and have an expertise in transportation, bridges, bridge inspections and design, pavement, and pavement inspection and design," he said.

The agreement will establish a joint-Ph.D. program where qualified students would take courses at both universities and finish at either university. The students would spend at least a year in the particular university and the courses would be taught in English. Jacquez said they hope to work out the details and curriculum by fall of 2009. One of the details being worked out is that NMSU would be the degree-granting institute, but the degree would be signed by both of the institute's certification authorities. Later this month, NMSU and UACH officials will meet to start laying out some of the ground work and complete details next year.

The importance of this agreement is viewed by Castillo as opening more opportunities for the students to be exposed to other cultures and opportunities in the job markets.

"Latin America is a tremendous opportunity for New Mexico State University, not just in Mexico but in Central America and South America," Castillo said. He said bringing UACH students to NMSU will compliment further the Anglo culture, the Hispanic culture and the Native American culture already established at NMSU.

"It's easy for us to work with the universities in Latin America," Castillo said.

This year, NMSU was selected by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers as one of the 10 universities, across the country, to receive Ph.D. engineering students from Ecuador, Castillo said. "And the government pays their entire tuition, and they can apply to any one of the engineering departments here at NMSU," Castillo said.

"Many of these countries recognize that they need leading-edge technologists to further their economies, but they don't have the quality in their education systems, yet, to do it locally," Castillo said.

When UACH officials were briefing NMSU officials, the UACH officials talked about the U.S. interstate highway system and recognized how this was a key component of the economic growth of the U.S. Mexico is planning to expand their highway systems, "but they don't have the civil engineers to help them design this system. And this (Ph.D.-joint degree) is going to play a big part in helping them build that system," Castillo said. "We have many faculty who are bilingual, and many of our students are bilingual. The Mexicans felt very much at home with us. It works for everybody. It's a win, win situation."