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      UTPA opens new STEM center

      UTPA opened a new center Monday to encourage more students to study science and math.

      It's all part of a $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

      It TMs called the Stem Center of Excellence in STEM Education.

      Stem stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

      The goal of the center is to provide additional support for students, particularly minorities, who wish to study in these fields.

      "We have new technologies in the stem center for students and faculties to come in and learn about new teaching methods to incorporate into their classroom and have the students experiment with the technologies to better engage in their teaching and research, new director of the center, Cristina Villalobos said.

      UTPA is one of just two other schools in the country getting the grant from the Department of Defense to encourage minorities to enter into math and science programs.

      "We think it's a strategic imperative both for our economic prosperity and for the defense of the nation to grow future engineers and scientists and individuals who are well schooled in technology, because the security challenges we face in the future are increasingly complex, they involve technology solutions and we need the best minds in America to take up these studies, vice chief of naval operations, Admiral Mark Ferguson said.

      While the university does not offer PhD programs in these fields, they hope the center will provide the resources students need to further their education elsewhere. On average, those who graduate with a degree in stem fields are paid 26-percent more than those who don't.