EL PASO, Texas-- Last Saturday's football game against UTSA brought more than 30,000 fans to the Sun Bowl and garnered enough attention to be nationally televised on ESPN 2. Also in attendance that night was UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken, who spent time with ABC-7 talking about the vision for the university.
Milliken is no stragner to the Borderland, having worked with the late UTEP President Diana Natalicio for years before her retirement. His focus has now changed to working with current UTEP President Heather Wilson.
“She is doing a terrific job over the past couple of years in her role here, picking up where Diana left off and handing off the baton. So I am very excited about the things that are happening here now in engineering and aeronautics,” Milliken said.
UTEP graduates have been catapulted into the commercial space race, as alumni are regularly hired to work for the Blue Origin project in Van Horn, and with Virgin Galactic in Spaceport America in New Mexico.
“We are in a great place right now in that we have 4,400 engineering students here now. We have a new focus on aeronautics and aviation, which fits very well with it, but this is so important for the military clients and the research agenda - also offering opportunities to so many young people,” Milliken said.
One can't discuss UTEP without discussing Natalicio's push for research, and Milliken believes UTEP and El Paso are in a good position to keep up with the rest of Texas.
“We look at this as part of the important future of Texas. Texas is growing enormously, this region of the state is growing enormously and UTEP is going to be an even bigger part of the state than it has been in the past,” he indicated.
The UT System is going to face a difficult decision in the coming days as federal vaccine guidelines will be put in place. In January, contractors funded by the federal government will risk losing contracts if their workers are not vaccinated.
While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken a hard stance against a vaccine mandate, it pins the UT System in an interesting situation. Milliken tells ABC-7 that the UT System will do everything in it's power to comply with federal regulations to not lose funding.
“I don’t think anybody wants our institutions to lose money, whether it be through federal contracts, Medicare funding or research agreements. So we are going to continue to do what we need to do to keep the support coming to the University of Texas System,” he explained.