When mechanical engineering major Alyssa Hernandez arrived at TU in the fall of 2014, she looked for a way to connect with fellow students who were studying engineering, but TU’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) had fallen inactive. With the help of a small group of determined students, she started from scratch. Hernandez and another TU student attended the National Institute for Leadership Advancement (NILA) at Facebook headquarters, networking with employers and learning how to further the SHPE mission.
“The SHPE organization is more than just empowering Hispanics to overcome the obstacles of higher education, but to diversify the workforce and create more of an inclusive community,” she said.
SHPE members brought their new ideas back to Tulsa, facilitating social events and career and study sessions. They attended national and regional conferences, volunteered alongside regional chapters at a Habitat for Humanity site and homeless shelter and helped host two Noche de Ciencias events where students from low-income areas participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities.
During the past two years, Hernandez said the chapter has grown from six to 15 members. Thanks to SHPE networking opportunities, she has received her first engineering internship and inspired other minority groups to become more active.
“SHPE has been extremely helpful in mentoring our young organization,” said Donovan Adesoro, a petroleum engineering junior and president of the National Society for Black Engineers. “We owe a large part of our success to them.”
“They allow us to network with industry professionals who work at Fortune 500 companies,” he said. “Unfortunately, these job fairs will be one of the few in their lifetime when they interview with employees who all look like them.”
While making lifelong friends and preparing for a career, Adesoro said giving back to the community is his favorite part of NSBE. After graduating from a high school where 80 percent of the students received free/reduced-price lunches, he understands the importance of college preparation. NSBE eventually hopes to establish a junior member program that pairs high school students with a TU faculty member for summer research.
“I can relate to a lot of the local high school students who aren’t sure what an engineer even does or the difficulties of paying for a college education,” he said. “The “NSBE Jr. program will enable us to overcome that.”
TU’s newest engineering club is the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, reinstated in March 2016. It regularly collaborates with AISES junior programs and Native American clubs.
“I have seen first-hand that Native American children are not reaching their full potential because of cultural norms or a lack of funding,” said group president and mechanical engineering student Amanda Hooper. “I do not want to sit idly by as my people struggle.”
Although each club will strive to achieve its own goals in the 2016-17 academic year, they plan to partner for activities that promote inclusion within all engineering and science industries.