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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Sharp talks engineering, RELLIS at SXSW

Photo by Hannah Falcon

Editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune Emily Ramshaw moderated a discussion between John Murray (middle) and John Sharp (right) about the future of public and private partnerships.

At South by Southwest, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp discussed a range of recent developments for the system and its flagship institution.
In a panel on March 11 moderated by Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Emily Ramshaw, Sharp joined John Murray, commanding general of the Army Futures Command. This relatively new command was created in 2018 to explore new technology and modernize the U.S. Army. During their discussion, titled “Reimagining Public & Private Partnerships,” Sharp took the opportunity to discuss the growth of A&M’s engineering programs and the rise of the RELLIS campus in Bryan.
Sharp said he has noticed many students scored well on college-entry tests like the SAT, but were unable to go to school away from home for a variety of reasons. A&M has since partnered with six community colleges in their Engineering Academies program to make the transition a little easier.
“We have a couple hundred kids that are students at Austin Community College, but they also are full-fledged students at Texas A&M College of Engineering,” Sharp said. “Kathy Banks, our dean, sends folks from College Station, engineering professors here, and teaches engineering to those kids so in two years, after their community college ends, they go seamlessly into the College of Engineering school at Texas A&M.”
Currently, A&M is the largest engineering school in the country. Sharp said one in four students on A&M’s campus is an engineering student, and that number is projected to grow, as A&M plans to have over 25,000 engineering students by the year 2025.
“When Dean and Vice Chancellor Banks first proposed that three and a half years ago, there was lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth,” Sharp said. “‘Oh my God, we’re going to have 10 years of kids out the wazoo, your SAT scores are going to fall.’ In fact, the SAT scores went up. In fact, we have the highest rate of hiring of engineers of any school in the nation.”
According to Sharp, the RELLIS campus is currently the most important project A&M is undertaking for two reasons: research efforts and the greater number of students who have the opportunity to receive an A&M education.
“We work very hard to make sure tuition is as low as possible and that we’re as efficient, that our administrative overhead is the lowest in the state, not just of universities but of all state agencies,” Sharp said. “We use that money for things that actually make a difference.”
A&M’s attendance at SXSW allowed the university to present its ideas to a global audience as one of several higher education systems participating in SXSW Interactive. A&M presented a variety of interactive experiences, panels and exhibits during the conference.
“If you want to make an impact on people that are interested particularly in technology, South by Southwest is where you go to put that in front of them,” Sharp said. “We obviously, especially through engineering and some of our courses, have a high interest in that, and we want to make sure our students and our university is exposed to them.”
Bill Norris, Class of 1977 and Austin resident, has attended A&M’s events at SXSW for two years in a row. He said his favorite exhibit at this year’s showcase was a pair of virtual reality goggles that allowed viewers to experience cities around the world, as well as events on A&M’s campus.
“I love watching Kyle Field through the glasses,” Norris said. “I was looking at my seats and everything, reminiscing, ready for the football season. I love when A&M’s taking over Austin. That’s a pretty big deal.”

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