Hispanic engineering students revive club

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

After being dormant for years, the U chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is emerging once again as a group of engineering students are working to bring it back.

SHPE is a national organization founded in the 1970s by a group of engineers in California who wanted to become role models within the Hispanic community. Now the association has college and professional chapters across the country.

The U chapter was formed 20 years ago. Since it has been inactive for a number of years, the group wants to revive the club by hosting socials, recruiting current U students and reaching out to high school students.

The group has about a dozen members, but SHPE collaborates with other minority engineering groups at the U, including the Society of Ethnic Student Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.

Although women make up just about half of the United States population, engineering has always been a white, male-dominated field, said Enrique Arce-Larreta, a first-year doctoral student in mechanical engineering and president of the U chapter of SHPE.

In recent years, a small number of women and racial minorities have entered the field, but not enough, Arce-Larreta said. Because of changing demographics in both Utah and the United States as more Hispanic students graduate from high school, there need to be more Hispanic engineering students.

“We bring different ideas to the table, and we have different perspectives of the world,” he said.

Racial minority students in engineering at the U are constantly in big classes with students who don’t look like them. Because of this, a big focus for the group is on retention, said Jacqueline Pacheco, a sophomore in biomedical engineering.

But the overall effort is to network and get more minorities into higher paying jobs, said Edward Trujillo, a U professor in chemical engineering who works with SHPE students.

“Some students don’t think about engineering, but we want them to know higher-paying jobs are available to them,” Trujillo said.

Professional engineers offered career advice and networking to more than 30 students Thursday night in the Warnock Engineering Building atrium. The first annual professional dinner was hosted by SHPE, SESE and SWE and put students in touch with professional engineers.

The engineers gave students advice on building a résumé and applying for internships and employment.

In a field dominated by men and with few people of color, the dinner “gives the students opportunities to network, to meet people in the industry, but also give them ideas how to stay motivated and how to succeed,” said Nerehida Carranza, a sophomore in mechanical engineering.

A number of SHPE alumni attended the dinner to show support and allow students to build contacts within the industry.

“We need mentors,” Carranza said. “Engineering is a tough field, and even more so (for) a minority (group).”

Although only about 30 students attended the dinner, Arce-Larreta is hoping to get more than 60 next year.

“This is really an exciting time for our group,” Arce-Larreta said. “The number of Hispanic engineering students is increasing every year. I think this group will be around a long time.”

[email protected]

Tyler Cobb

Electrical engineering sophomore Jesus Loya and Enriqueta Rodriguez are members of the Societ of Hispanic Professional Engineers, a group which aims to encourage Hispanic students to pursue engineering.