Q&A with UTEP Alumni Association President Bernardino Olague

Name: Bernardino Olague

Occupation: Vice President, LOI Engineers

Degrees from UTEP: Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering (1991); and Masters of Science in Civil Engineering (2001)

Number of years on the board: I have been a proud member of this Board since September 2015. That makes six years on the Board, and about to start the 7th year.

Q: How did you first become involved with the UTEP Alumni Association?

A:  I began my involvement with the UTEP Alumni Association in the spring of 2014. That glorious day I arrived early to the office and as I was about to get my second cup of coffee when my late friend Gerry Licon asked me to join him for a brief introduction to a group of guests gathering at the office. When I entered the conference room, Gerry said “… and this is Bernardino “Berna” Olague, and he is the new chairman of the UTEP Alumni Association Golf Committee.”  Little did I know that I would remain involved as chair and co-chair of the golf committee through 2019.

Q: You are stepping in to the role of president after more than 18 months of virtual activity due to the COVID -19 pandemic. What are some lessons you learned from that historic time that you want to implement into your year as president?

A:  We have been adjusting to new standards, schedules, and formats for the past 18 months. Virtual became the frame of reference. The technology gap was reduced and that enabled us to undertake more tasks. The travel time it would take me to reach a destination was suddenly reduced to waiting in the “lobby” of a Zoom call while the host gave me access to the chat room. Incredible. We learned that we should never underestimate that which we don’t see, hear or smell. Having said that, we will continue to build on the virtual concept and increase our reach to those alums who are eager to engage with UTEP. Being open-minded, while strengthening our affinity and love for our alma mater, will inevitably take us all to the next level. We demonstrated that we can adapt to emerging circumstances in a matter of days. Therefore, we must continue to feel and think that we are resilient, resourceful, innovative, quick and agile. So, for the next 12 months and hopefully beyond that, the Board of the Alumni Association, will deploy and implement a number of strategic activities that will make everyone feel that UTEP is the place to be.

Q: This past year, the Board and UTEP's Office of Institutional Advancement worked on a strategic plan to enhance alumni engagement and advance UTEP. What excites you most about this plan?

A: This plan crystalizes the very essence of our backbone, and most importantly, it captures the necessary elements that coupled with UTEP’s 2030 Strategic Plan. It will set the new foundation for generations to come. The plan was crafted with the support and invaluable input of a number of dedicated alums, staff, and facilitated by an accomplished consultant. During Day 1 of our Annual Retreat, the Board had the opportunity to visualize how we will go from good to great. The plan provided more than a snapshot of where we are. It humbled and challenged me as I realized that we still have much to do. This plan will be a road map for me during my year as president. It may be adjusted as move forward, but for now, it identifies opportunities and sets clear goals. We will continue to explore the metrics to measure our success.

Q: Tell us more about the 2021-22 Board of Directors. How is this group of Proud Miners going to help you make this next year a successful one for the association and for UTEP?

A: We have a formidable team of professionals with the experience, passion and dedication toward increasing our impact on students (future alumni). That makes me feel super proud of being part of this board, which includes four new talented members. During our annual retreat we had an extensive working session where everyone provided input and ideas that made me realize that there are a myriad of activities that are so critical to our success. Incoming board members jumped at the opportunity to participate in our Annual Golf Tournament, that because of social distancing requirements, did not take place last year. The wide range of backgrounds on board is why I call this “The A Team”

Q: You have been a longtime supporter of UTEP and have even partnered with fellow Civil Engineer alumni to begin an endowment. Why was that important to you?

A: While attending UTEP, and more specifically, when was I president of the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, I recall reaching out to multiple sources for donations in order to participate in competitions. It became challenging. Even though we conducted several fundraising activities, we still had to ask for more donations. So when I was invited to join the Alumni Academy of Civil Engineers in 2001 and learned about their mission, I did not hesitate to make the financial commitment toward establishing Alumni Academy of Civil Engineers Professorship in Civil Engineering Endowment. Today, UTEP civil engineering students have access to financial assistance from that endowment. Hence, as president of the UTEP Alumni Association I intend to continue to continue growing the UTEP Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment to assist our students. I firmly believe that while being financially successful is very good, having the ability to effect positive change in others is even better. What matters to me the most, is being able to contribute toward developing a culture of legacy and philanthropy. I am also very proud that an office in the Engineering Building bears the names of two young civil engineers that, with a lot of effort, were able to donate as part of the Engineering Annex naming opportunities campaign. How will we all be remembered? I choose that I, along with our Alumni Board will be remembered as a group that serves as the catalyst to pave the road for future Miners.

Q: What message do you have for current students who are "alumni-in-training"?

A: You are receiving academic instruction at an R-1 institution. This is truly an honor. Be proud of your school. Volunteer to help others while at UTEP, and serve as an ambassador by asking others to join Miner Nation. And when able, provide financial support to your college. The impact of what we do today will play a remarkable role in the formation of future Miner generations. By doing so, you will effortlessly help others reach their potential.  In the words of Stefano Gabbana, “Dreams can still come true; you need a great deal of energy and determination, and a little bit of luck.” I believe we are lucky on being Miners. This message is also directed to my three daughters, two of them are still attending UTEP, while their sister is a medical doctor in Houston who obtained her bachelor’s at UTEP.

Q: "Miners Forever. Stronger Together" is a very powerful catchphrase for alumni, students and UTEP supporters. What does that phrase mean to you and how can Miners everywhere help in spreading that message of unity?

A: It means: Be committed and remain focused on making UTEP the place to be because we will achieve great goals… together. We are planting seeds. If we continue to nourish them, they will flourish and will in turn, provide more seeds and opportunities. I believe it was Aristotle who said that “The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” I believe that wholeheartedly. I believe we can collectively be responsible for a much brighter future for our region and the world, while maintaining our identity as Miners and our loyalty to our alma mater.

Meet the 2021-2022 UTEP Alumni Association Board Members