The University of Texas at El Paso sits right on the United States border with Mexico, and boasts a broad-based curriculum, including physical sciences, nursing, liberal arts, health sciences, engineering and education, as well as a substantial research programme.
The university started off in 1914 as Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, and has grown since then from an initial cohort of just 27 mining students to more than 20,000 students. This history is the source of the institution’s athletics nickname – ‘The Miners’. Their mascot is Paydirt Pete, a moustachioed prospector with a pickaxe, hat and orange shirt. Orange is the university colour, and a number of shops on campus offer discounts to students on Fridays when they wear orange.
As well as boasting significant success in track and field events, the UTEP basketball team made civil rights history in 1966 by winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship with an all-black squad, inspiring the 2006 film Glory Road.
Students get involved in a wide variety of traditions: the longest running is TCM day, when engineers gather together to remember the university’s mining origins, and honour St. Patrick, patron saint of engineering. Those who have taken part in the event – which has been going since 1920 – are known as the ‘Mighty Guard of St. Pat’.
One of the most unusual and distinctive aspects of UTEP are its buildings, many of which are inspired by Bhutanese architecture, complete with mosaics, high windows, tapestries and wood carvings. The style is said to have been introduced after Kathleen Worrell, the wife of the school’s first dean, was entranced by a photo essay on Bhutan in a 1914 issue of National Geographic. The university welcomes growing numbers of Bhutanese students and has bi-annual Bhutan days, when Bhutanese performers come to campus.