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For immediate release — Oct. 16, 2008

(DALLAS) — El Centro College and Texas Tech University will add more than a touch of “green” to the world by offering environmental sciences degree programs for educationally underrepresented students, in partnership with the Trinity River Audubon Center, which opens this week. 

With the support of a two-year, $4.8 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education awarded earlier this month, ECC and Texas Tech will give students a chance to use classroom and laboratory space at the new Audubon Center in Dallas, located at 6500 S. Loop 12, for new research and field experiences — a living, learning laboratory. The center connects people of all ages to nature through its conservation and education programs.

ECC and Texas Tech are developing transfer agreements so that El Centro students can take courses that apply specifically to science, technology and engineering fields offered by Texas Tech. The agreements will ensure that those ECC courses will transfer seamlessly to TTU, lowering the cost for students who are pursuing undergraduate degrees in science and mathematics. 

The grant allows El Centro and Texas Tech to renovate and expand laboratory space for science and mathematics students and also to offer new field experiences like the ones they will receive at the Trinity River Audubon Center. TTU also will help strengthen lab experiences for students and develop biology student field research classes at the Trinity River Audubon Center and Llano River Field Station (in Junction, Texas).

Pyeper Wilkins, ECC’s executive dean of resource and community development, explained, “ECC’s partnership with the Trinity River Audubon Center serves a dual purpose: It provides a research site for ECC students and helps the center meet its goals to serve as a gateway to careers in conservation. ECC will have a dedicated wet lab that will be equipped with the assistance of grant funds. El Centro and Texas Tech will link educational experiences at the TRAC site with a series of basic and applied research projects dealing with water and watersheds, exotic species, range management, natural resources and ecological restoration. Students will be able to engage in field experiences that have not been available to ECC students in the past.”

Wilkins added, “TRAC will provide the perfect place for ECC and TTU’s new environmental science program. The land beneath the center, formerly an illegal dumping site, has been reclaimed by the city of Dallas. The site demonstrates how a municipal liability can be transformed into a major asset for the city. It is also the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building constructed by the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department.” 

Dr. Paul McCarthy, president of ECC in downtown Dallas, said, “El Centro is excited to be one of several community colleges nationwide that currently are partnering with universities to focus on STEM transfer opportunities. Our close association with Texas Tech University targets Hispanic and other underrepresented students for careers in environmental science and other STEM disciplines.”

“There is a great need in our state for people with degrees in mathematics, science and engineering,” said Guy Bailey, president of Texas Tech. “We recognize that more and more students are beginning their higher education pursuits at community colleges. This grant will help us smooth the way for them to pursue four-year degrees.”

Environmental science is a multidisciplinary field of study that incorporates elements from biology and chemistry, giving students the opportunity investigate all aspects of the environment: air, land, water and living species. According to statistics ( from the U.S. Department of Labor, “The number of jobs for environmental scientists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. That’s because people want the environment to be cleaner, and more businesses and governments will hire these scientists to help do that.”

For more information, contact ECC’s Pyeper Wilkins at (214) 860-5833 or Valerie Paton, TTU’s vice provost for planning and assessment, at (806) 742-2184.

For details about the Trinity River Audubon Center, visit:

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Press contact: Ann Hatch