Community Members Celebrated at Annual Island University Friends of Engineering Luncheon

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Thanks to the support of local community members, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi now has a vibrant and growing engineering program with an enrollment of 694 students across all engineering and engineering technology majors. During the annual Friends of Engineering Luncheon on April 6, American Bank and the Port of Corpus Christi were recognized for their specific contributions to the engineering program.

“What’s exciting about this engineering program is that it’s not only breaking barriers for first-generation college students but also breaking the norms in terms of the demographics of those who graduate from engineering programs,” said Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, President and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “A lot of effort has been put in to increase women as well as Hispanics and all underrepresented groups in general in engineering. The program’s goal is not only to serve our community but to change the face of engineering moving forward.”

Every year, the College of Science and Engineering (COSE) comes together at the luncheon to recognize the individuals and organizations that share the University’s vision and passion for an engineering program that meets the needs of local workforce demands. Organizations like American Bank and the Port of Corpus Christi provide critical monetary and experiential support for engineering students, many of whom are first-generation college students. Students like Amanda Sanchez, ’13, who was this year’s alumni speaker and the first in her family to pursue a college education.

“Statistically, I should not be up here speaking to you today – especially not as a Latina STEM graduate,” Sanchez shared as she spoke of the experiences that led her to where she is today, a Product Review Engineer for Boeing Global Services located at the Corpus Christi Army Depot.

“I’m often asked ‘why do you still wear your college ring?’ My response is simple. My literal blood, sweat and tears went into achieving this goal – and I am proud to be an Islander,” she said. “Thanks to all the faculty and staff for believing in me. Thank you to my family and friends who have also supported me, especially my husband. Last but not least, thank you to the donors who continue to contribute to students like myself; so they too can fulfill their dream of being a college graduate.”

During the recognition ceremony, American Bank and the Port of Corpus Christi were presented with a plaque depicting their logo and organizational name. The plaque will take up a place of honor on the Friends of Engineering wall located in the Engineering Building. Both honorees were also presented with a proclamation from U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold

“American Bank understands the importance of the Island University to the Coastal Bend area,” said Ben Wallace, chairman of American Bank. “Supporting it, and the young men and women who go to school there is one of the best things we can do to give back to our community.”

As one of the early supporters of an engineering program at A&M-Corpus Christi, American Bank created an endowed scholarship in 2008 with the intent to fund first-generation college students. Since the endowment was fully funded in 2012, they have helped more than 50 students achieve their dream of becoming an engineer.

“The expansion of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi engineering program is exciting for us because we always have room for more talent at the Port,” said Sean Strawbridge, chief executive officer at the Port of Corpus Christi. “I heard 40 percent of the graduates from the Island University engineering program stay in the Coastal Bend. We’d like to see 100 percent of the graduates stay here.”

The Port of Corpus Christi’s legacy began with an initial $100,000 engineering endowment and continues with their most recent scholarship, the Port of Corpus Christi Pathway Scholarship. This annual scholarship, which was signed January 2018, will provide financial aid to Island University Students pursuing engineering, geographic information science, environmental science or business administration. Thanks to both of their partnerships and financial support A&M-Corpus Christi can continue to recruit the best and the brightest from local high schools and, once they graduate, keep them here in the Coastal Bend.

The Island University first began offering a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 2015. Since then, a total of 218 mechanical engineering graduates and three electrical engineering graduates have walked across the commencement stage. To meet the needs of the program’s growing enrollment, COSE has continued to expand research and teaching areas across campus including a new engineering lab featuring the latest in state-of-the-art electrical engineering technology, which opened December 2017.