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Professor of Practice Oscar Lopez sits down with mechanical engineering student Claire Godwin to discuss the benefits of earning an engineering degree through Texas A&M University's Engineering at McAllen Program at the Higher Education Center at McAllen.

It only takes a short time visiting with professor of practice Oscar Lopez, to realize he is extremely dedicated to educating future engineers. Lopez has the opportunity to inspire students every day in the classroom at the Higher Education Center at McAllen. Located in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas A&M University campus offers three engineering degrees, each with a specific focus area designed for careers in the valley, or beyond.

As a professor of practice, Lopez brings years of experience to the classroom. He’s one of 93 professors of practice employed by the College of Engineering.

In the early 90s, Lopez was president of an engineering firm in San Diego, California, when he decided to take a leap of faith and relocate to the Rio Grande Valley to open a satellite engineering design office in McAllen, Texas. Lopez said he saw opportunity in the Valley on the horizon, and he was right. Since then, the Valley has continued to grow exponentially, providing numerous industry opportunities in the last two decades. These experiences prepared and motivated Lopez to educate, challenge, inspire and empower his students to continue in his footsteps.

When asked how he found his passion in structural engineering, Lopez said he loves innovation.

I love creating things that don't exist, many times from scratch you know. I like to doodle. I'm always wondering how things work. I like to be innovative and that's really what drew me to engineering at first.

Oscar Lopez

“I love creating things that don't exist, many times from scratch you know,” he said. “I like to doodle. I'm always wondering how things work. I like to be innovative and that's really what drew me to engineering at first.”

Lopez understands the difficulty and importance of finding what engineering major most excites students, because he navigated this as a college student himself. As a professor, he embodies the helpful and nurturing culture of the McAllen campus, guiding students through the many steps of their college career.

“I have observed that many students from south Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, experience additional financial and socio-economic challenges which are tied to a strong and tight-knit family structure culture,” Lopez said. “The regional culture found in the Rio Grande Valley is beautiful, unique, vibrant and rich in history and resources, and I am delighted and privileged to be of service and a mentor to all of our aspiring students.”

At McAllen, students have many opportunities to gain mentors in their professors. With small classes, sometimes fewer than 10 students, opportunities to learn and interact with faculty and industry professionals at an individual level abound.

“What gives me great joy is watching them get it,” Lopez said. “As a professor, when I see it in your eyes, that ‘aha’ moment, that gives me chills. That’s totally awesome.”

Lopez feels it’s important to prepare future engineers, and he said he is inspired by the Aggie Core Values which initially drew him to teach at the Higher Education Center. Since 2017, Lopez has had the opportunity to instill these values in future Aggie engineers, giving back to the community he so admires.

Lopez adds that the specialized engineering degrees offered at the Higher Education Center actively prepare students for careers in the valley and beyond.

“The newly formed Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering is so exciting, I wish I had been a student when this was around,” Lopez said. “The original pure mechanical engineer, pure structural engineer, they don’t exist by themselves anymore. The engineer of the future, whom we are educating now at Texas A&M University and specifically at the Higher Education Center at McAllen have to be able to communicate with a new and ever-developing engineering vernacular and skill set in a programmatic way to interact with other engineers.”

Lopez believes that interdisciplinary engineering is the future.

“Our students have fantastic opportunities that are new where they can develop their own program, essentially based on their interests,” he said. “This flexibility wraps around mechanical, electrical, computer science, computer engineering, structural, architecture, construction sciences, among others — with these contributing to the creative fields of the world. All these fields of study are creative and innovative in their nature and can be mixed and matched in a formal customized program of study.”

For many of the students living locally in the Rio Grande Valley, Lopez sees the Higher Education Center as an avenue to receive a Texas A&M degree without having to leave home. After graduating, students have the opportunity to stay connected to their tight-knit community by pursuing a career in one of the many industries rooted in the prosperous and growing Rio Grande Valley, or they can tap into the Aggie network and take their skills anywhere in the world.

To learn more about Engineering at McAllen, visit our website.