UNO, SUNO agreement to open opportunities for engineering students

Advocate staff photo by Kari Daquine Harden -- SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo, left,  and UNO President Peter Fos sign an agreement creating a joint curriculum and degree program for engineering students at a ceremony on Wednesday.
Advocate staff photo by Kari Daquine Harden -- SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo, left, and UNO President Peter Fos sign an agreement creating a joint curriculum and degree program for engineering students at a ceremony on Wednesday.

With a promise of more collaboration to come, Southern University at New Orleans Chancellor Victor Ukpolo and University of New Orleans President Peter Fos signed an agreement Wednesday creating a joint curriculum and degree program for engineering students.

The program will allow students who want to pursue an engineering degree but who don’t meet UNO admissions requirements to earn their prerequisites at SUNO before transferring to UNO to complete their degrees.

The agreement is the first step in an effort spurred by the 2011 state Senate bill that transferred UNO from the Louisiana State University System to the University of Louisiana System. The bill also includes goals of increasing student success in the region and maximizing resources among public institutions.

While the cooperative agreements are mandated by the state, Fos said the collaboration is something all universities should do regardless of the law. Also, he said the new program carries on the two basic principles of UNO’s founding 55 years ago: providing access to education for everyone and achieving academic excellence.

Asked about hostility two years ago in response to the proposal of merging the two universities, Fos noted that he wasn’t at UNO at that time but that neither school is losing any of its identity. Rather the agreement will merge the strength of UNO’s engineering program with SUNO students who want to earn an engineering degree, he said.

Meeting regularly on a monthly basis, Fos said that he and Ukpolo focused on where they saw the greatest needs. Fos said they want to see the field of engineering opened to more people, especially minority students.

With UNO being the only university in the area to offer an engineering program, Fos said the agreement will create a perfect segue and seamless transfer for students between the two schools.

Ukpolo said SUNO will prepare students who don’t meet UNO’s engineering requirements, which includes an ACT math score of 28, with everything they need to do well once they get to UNO.

“The region wins,” Ukpolo said, by the schools working together to produce a skilled workforce ready to work in the community.

Fos said they are looking at collaborating on other programs, and the engineering agreement will provide a template.

“This is a great opportunity for both of our universities to come together in the spirit of increasing educational opportunities here in the region,” Ukpolo said in a news release. “Engineers continue to be in demand in Louisiana, and utilizing the resources of both SUNO and UNO, we can reach more people and give them real skills on their way to building successful careers.”