More than 500 LETU graduates will proudly walk across the stages at Belcher Center in Longview and Houston's First Baptist Church to receive their degrees during these next two weeks. Adoring family and friends will watch the commencement services and celebrate these graduates' notable achievements.
This year, we as a university have some notable achievements which we, too, can celebrate.
This year, we will award our first two Master of Science in Engineering degrees, and several new graduate programs have been approved for launch in the fall: marriage and family therapy, healthcare administration and school counseling. All of these degree programs help us expand as a university. And let's not forget that we began this academic year reaching over 1,000 in our online programs for the first time in our history.
LETU students excelled in so many ways this year, making us proud of them and of our university. One of our mechanical engineering students finished in the top 10 in a 3D computer modeling competition. LETU aviation students won First Place at the 2012 Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) competition-for the second consecutive year. Our "Sting" Precision Flight Team won First Place at regional SAFECON competition, qualifying to compete nationally. Our engineering students recently competed in IEEE robotics competition and won first place for designing, building and testing a robot to harvest energy. Four LETU business students presented research at 2012 Economics Scholar Program conference sponsored by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Our scholar-athletes also excelled. The men's soccer team qualified for post-season play. Men's golf placed second in the American Southwest Conference. Softball had notable wins over three nationally ranked schools. Women's basketball missed the conference tournament by only one game. We held our first nighttime games in the history of the university and have seen an increase in awareness and of and attendance at LETU sporting events. And we started a new tradition of turning the bell tower lights blue to celebrate home game wins.
We can all take pride in our faculty member Becky Teerink being named 2012 Teacher of the Year by the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance. And we all have reason to celebrate that two of our biology graduates were accepted to medical schools for the fall. Several students this year competed and won valuable scholarships, such as Whitney Brouwer who won a $4,500 NBAA scholarship, Noelle Linstad who won an NSF grant to study green chemistry in India this summer, and Joy Cooper who won a $5,000 airbus leadership scholarship.
Also this year, we opened South Hall to its first residents. We renovated our Kielhorn welding/materials joining lab to make it the largest stand-alone facility of its kind in the country. We expanded the Glaske Building to provide much-needed faculty offices. And we completed and dedicated the Joyce Family Athletic Village to serve our intramural and intercollegiate athletic teams.
For the third consecutive year, we continue to produce more classroom teachers than any other private school in the state. And we continue to enjoy a top tier U.S. News ranking as one of "America's Best Colleges," and are listed prominently among the 2012 best engineering schools and up and coming universities. The website www.TheBestColleges.org ranked LETU as the top online Christian university in the nation this academic year, and ranked our Master of Arts in Counseling as the 8th best in the nation.
There are numerous reasons to celebrate what God is doing at LETU, and at May 2012 graduation ceremonies, we will witness over 500 additional displays of God's good favor upon us.