A legacy of education innovation in the sciences and the development of the School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering

Throughout the University of the Incarnate Word's history, the School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering has transformed from a small program to a school with a wide variety of challenging undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Early Years

The origins of the science programs are central to the growth of the University. In 1923, Mother Columkille Colbert, CCVI, former president of then-Incarnate Word College, spearheaded the appeal to gain University accreditation and pioneered significant and exciting advancements in the science programs not the least of which was the development of a brand new science facility. In 1926, construction was finished and the new Science Hall was unveiled. Soon after, the accrediting agency noted the University’s grand improvements and accreditation was granted.

Science Boom

After years of course development, both on the undergraduate and graduate level, the School of Math, Science and Engineering skyrocketed during the 1960s. Due to the Cold War and stiff competition with Russia in both science and technology, the United States government was prepared to invest more into American collegiate education, particularly in the math, science and engineering fields. During this time, the School of Math, Science and Engineering grew in enrollment and expanded its fields of study.

While the 1960s inspired Americans to look toward the stars, the 1970s brought renewed interest in the exploration of the Earth. The decade would see a boom of programs at Incarnate Word College, including in biology and archeology. Incarnate Word College’s unique natural setting made it an ideal site for the study of archeological deposits, rare specimens and life – both modern and prehistoric - on the grounds.

Nutrition education, now part of SMSE, also evolved and began to be cited as a model for other such programs in the U.S. Sr. Eleanor Ann Young, CCVI, an educator and researcher who would lead the first studies showing hereditary lactase deficiency in Hispanics, headed the program and established the nutrition laboratory.

The 1980s brought even more growth with the establishment of an endowed chair in biology and advancements in technology and offerings, such as environmental science.

The program today would not have sustained growth without certain faculty members that stood at the center of the development of this school. Sr. Claude Marie Faust, CCVI, former chair of the mathematics department, and Sr. Pascaline Mulrooney, CCVI, a chemistry professor, both served long tenures at the University during the integral years of program development.

Cutting-Edge Education, Leading Research

Recent years have brought even more developments and important advancements. In 2006, the University completed two major construction projects to house the School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering. The Science Hall underwent a $14 million renovation and was renamed the Bonilla Science Hall in honor of former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla. Additionally, construction was completed on the new AT&T Science Center, a five-story facility next to the Bonilla Science Hall. The completion of these projects provided SMSE with state-of-the-art labs and equipment to support teaching and research for years to come.

In addition to these projects, SMSE also opened the Solar House. Constructed under the direction of Dr. Allison Whittmore, then chair of the engineering department, more than 30 engineering students helped plan and oversee the development of this self-sustaining, award-winning structure with net zero daily energy consumption. The facility has Platinum LEED Certification and uses recycled water and materials. The facility is used for teaching and has been cited as a model for environmentally friendly construction.

Faculty have also worked hard to offer field work, research and professional development opportunities to students. This includes travel to conferences, presentation opportunities and the chance to work on select on-campus programs and camps designed to introduce young people to the sciences, such as the Gems program and SEMI. SMSE has also formed dynamic partnerships with leading institutions such as the National Science Foundation, US Department of Defense, US Department of Education, Joint Base San Antonio, CPS Energy and more to further advance learning opportunities for our students.

Today, SMSE students have more opportunities than ever to expand their understanding of the sciences and explore practical work in their field of study.