‘Opportunity’ Knocks at UTEP May 2-3

Figuring out the right combination of academics and industry that will lead to a social mobility revolution in the Paso del Norte region and beyond is the mission of those involved in the UTEP Opportunity Days that starts Wednesday, May 2, at the University.

About 100 decision makers from the civic, business and education sectors will gather at the Tomás Rivera Conference Center in Union Building East at The University of Texas at El Paso to discuss how to enhance the strengths and address the challenges of the area’s human and economic development.

A team of collaborators made up of a cross-section of community leaders will launch a three-year initiative to develop those initial concepts into an executable plan that will invigorate the region’s economy through education and the creation of high-compensation jobs.

The University was selected as one of 12 higher education partners of Opportunity Nation, an initiative that kicked off last fall in New York with the goal of economic stimulation, social mobility and the revitalization of the American Dream.

“Every single individual who gets a degree at UTEP has the potential to add to the quality of life in this region,” said University President Diana Natalicio, who attended the New York summit. “We’ll all benefit if you get a degree. That’s the way it works. That’s why higher education is such a public good.”

Woody L. Hunt, chairman and CEO of Hunt Companies, Inc., echoed President Natalicio’s sentiments. He will say a few words to help close the May 3 discussion.

“Higher education attainment is absolutely critical if we want a high quality of life,” Hunt said. “Today’s high incomes require a very competitive education. UTEP delivers that competitive education. The business community needs to buy into that concept and be very supportive of UTEP and our other higher education institutions.”

To see Hunt and Natalicio talk about UTEP Opportunity Days, click here.


On May 3, day two of UTEP Opportunity Days, the University will host more than 8,000 fifth- and seventh-grade students from neighboring school districts who will tour parts of the campus and learn many of the interesting – and fun – activities that happen at UTEP. The purpose is to raise the aspirations of the students to become college graduates with bright futures.

The UTEP Opportunity Days partners are the Canutillo Independent School District, Cardwell Foundation, El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, El PasoElectric Co., El Paso Independent School District, GEAR UP, GenTX, Hunt Family Foundation, Socorro Independent School District, Sodexo, United Way of El Paso, UTEP Institutional Advancement, UTEP Office of the President, UTEP Student Affairs, and the Ysleta Independent School District.

Featured Speakers

Some of the speakers who will participate in the May 2 conference include:

Diana Natalicio is president of The University of Texas at El Paso. UTEP hired the St. Louis native as a visiting assistant professor of linguistics in 1971. She rose through the ranks until being named to hercurrent position in 1988. Dr. Natalicio is credited with putting the University on the road to becoming the first national research institution with a 21st century student demographic. Her pursuit of the “access and excellence” model at UTEP has opened the doors to students and promoted the recruitment and retention of top faculty. She serves on several national boards and has received numerous state, national and international honors for her work.

Woody L. Hunt is chairman and CEO of Hunt Companies, Inc. He is a leading national privately-owned real estate investor, manager, developer and contractor. He also serves as chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation he established with his wife, Gayle, in 1987. He serves on various business and academic boards. He previously served on The University of Texas System Board of Regents. He has been recognized by numerous local and regional organizations for his civic,business and philanthropic achievements.

Mark Edwards is executive director of Opportunity Nation, an initiative to stimulate the economy and build social mobility. He formerly led a marketing and communications company that specialized in academic and nonprofit organizations. He serves on numerous academic and civic boards. His goal for Opportunity Nation is to create a national dialogue that involves every social class, and a mechanism that organizations can use to make the necessary changes to increase economic opportunity in America.   

Anthony Carnevale is a research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Dr. Carnevale, who has a long professional history of public service, has been tapped by three U.S. presidents to serve on commissions for technology, adult education, employment policy and productivity. As a research economist at Syracuse University Research Corp., he co-authored the principal affidavit in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Rodriguez v. San Antonio, which fixed unequal tax burdens and tax benefits, and resulted in fiscal reforms in many states.

Steve Murdock is the Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Professor of Sociology at Rice University. He is an in-demand speaker about the implications of current and future demographic and socioeconomic change. Before Rice, he served as director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census and was the first official state demographer of Texas. His academic history includes being the Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair in Demography and Organization Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is the author or editor of scores ofbooks, articles and technical reports about demographics.  

El Paso native Pat Mora is an award-winning author and long-time Hispanic cultural advocate. The first generation college student started her professional life as an educator to help pay her way through Texas Western College (now UTEP). Mrs. Mora has been a teacher, university administrator, consultant, speaker and writer of more than 40 books of poetry, nonfiction and children’s literature. The Santa Fe, N.M., resident has earned numerous academic and professional accolades including two honorary doctorates and selection as UTEP’s Distinguished Alumna in 2004.

Dr. Willarda Edwards is managing partner of a successful medical practice in her native Baltimore. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from UTEP in 1972 and her medical degree five years later from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. While president of the National Medical Association from 2010-11, she worked with the WhiteHouse to develop health care reform legislation. She is involved in the American Medical Association’s Doctors Back to School program that promotes medical professions among school children. Dr. Edwards was selected the UTEP Distinguished Alumna in 2009.