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Volume 68, Issue 65, Monday, November 25, 2002


Program strikes oil in Mexico

By Matt Dulin
The Daily Cougar

They might have been a world away, but that didn't stop 14 Mexican students from earning a master's degree in petroleum engineering from UH. More than a personal feat for the students, their graduation Friday heralds an increasing effort to develop the College of Engineering's international distance education program.

"It also carries significant contributions to our programs here at UH," said Christine Ehlig-Economides, director of petroleum engineering and proponent of the new program. "The process of capturing the courses electronically has improved the way we organize and teach all our courses here in Houston."

Students from Mexico City's Universidad La Salle who took distance education classes in petroleum engineering from UH graduate Friday.
Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

In 1999, the Universidad La Salle in Mexico City contacted UH with the idea to administer a master's degree to engineers already in the field. La Salle had been in talks with Pemex, the Mexican state-controlled petrochemical corporation, which was interested in providing more knowledge and training for its engineers. After two years of arrangements, the program began with its first class in April 2001.

The students took 16 five-week courses, nearly identical to the courses offered at UH, only accelerated. During the first week, students endured 40 hours of videotaped lectures. After that, students did more typical classroom activities on the Internet.

Ehlig-Economides said that while the degree could have been completed at Universidad La Salle, it was more convenient for Pemex, who footed the bill, to arrange for an American degree.

"This same program would've taken three years (at La Salle). They are on a more European system of education," she said.

La Salle officials have expressed interest in applying this formula toward industrial and chemical engineering master's degrees, as well as for geosciences. These programs could be rolling as early as next fall, Ehlig-Economides said.

She also said engineering firms in China, Vietnam, Brazil, and Venezuela have contacted the college of engineering.

"It's exciting. It's really expanding and growing," Ehlig-Economides said.

Also at the ceremony, Mexican consul Eduardo Ibarrola said he was excited about UH's efforts, saying this was only adding to the many ways the University "cooperates with the Mexican community."

Keynote speaker Charif Souki, chairman and co-founder of Cheniere Energy, said he envied the graduates who now face a future full of "challenge and opportunity" in the energy industry.

"It's all about what you know and who you know not where you're from," said the oil executive, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and raised in Lebanon. "People recognize knowledge just about everywhere you go."

More Pemex employees are set to begin the course in January.

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