I finally heard back from the grad school folks at UTEP (just 1.5 weeks after they said they'd be in touch). My application has been forwarded to the CIv E department for consideration for next Spring. I'll hopefully hear back from them sometime in the not too distant future (i.e. before next Spring ;).
I got my Star Wars DVDs this afternoon and ended up watching Ep IV and fully enjoying ye olde surround sound and mega bass. Ahhh... the joys or using the basement as part of the sub-woofer (hehehehe ;).