Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers

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The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) was started in Los Angeles in 1974. The objective was to form a national organization of professional engineers to serve as role models in the Hispanic community. Mariela Resendez,president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers of ASU and Carrie Robinson, SHPE’s chapter advisor talk about the organization and its efforts to get people interested in engineering.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers known as SHPE was founded in Los Angeles in 1974. The objective was to form a national organization of professional engineers to serve as role models in the Hispanic community. Here now to talk about this group and their efforts to attract Hispanics to the engineering profession are Mariela Resendez, President of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers of ASU, and Carrie Robinson, SHPE's chapter advisor. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." It's good to have you here. Carrie, let's start with you since you're the chapter advisor. Give us a little bit of history. We noted that the organization was founded in 1974. Trace that and how it got started.

Carrie Robinson: SHPE started at ASU in 1982 and the mission is looking to create a community and a society that supports Hispanics and Latinos and encourages them to pursue careers and education in engineering and the other STEM fields, so in science, technology, engineering and math.

José Cárdenas: And Mariela, you would be one of the success stories because you were first introduced to SHPE and engineering while you were in high school.

Mariela Resendez: I got involved as a sophomore in high school. I actually got introduced by an ex-national president, Melissa Drake, she's still involved in SHPE.

José Cárdenas: Were you even thinking of a career in engineering?

Mariela Resendez: I had no idea what engineering was. I started getting involved in robotics and I started learning about mechanisms, electrical systems, anything that was engineering related but no one ever told me was engineering until I got introduced into engineering.

José Cárdenas: And that made you want -- you ended up at ASU, you've been there for a number of years now and now you are president of the local chapter.

Mariela Resendez: Yep.

José Cárdenas: How did that come about?

Mariela Resendez: Well, I was president of the chapter at my local high school, and then it just carried on. As a freshman, sophomore and college I decided to get more involved and get into outreach itself within SHPE. So it just grew from there.

José Cárdenas: And Carrie, what are the kinds of things that the organization does as part of its outreach? We already know that they go to the high schools but what kinds of programs do you offer there?

Carrie Robinson: So we go out into a lot of the local k-12 schools and do a variety of different outreaches. We have some junior chapters throughout the Phoenix metro area.

José Cárdenas: Kind of like the one that Mariela was talking about.

Carrie Robinson: That is one of the junior chapters which we have. And so we have current college students that are engineering majors going out into the schools and working with these students.

José Cárdenas: We've got a picture on the screen right now. Would that be an example of working in the high school?

Carrie Robinson: Absolutely. So that's one of our activities where we have the students build a ramp on a beg board to understand a lot of those principles of velocity and trying to get them excited in doing hands-on activities with engineering and science.

José Cárdenas: Do the kids really get excited and think I want to be an engineer?

Carrie Robinson: Absolutely. The students become super competitive, they become really into what they're doing. Any time you give students something to play with that they get to manipulate, they get very excited about it.

José Cárdenas: And this picture, I'm not sure it looks like it's at the state capitol?

Mariela Resendez: This picture was in Indiana at a national conference, just some of our members attending.

José Cárdenas: And so the national conference, every year there's a national conference for the organization?

Mariela Resendez: Yes. They bring a lot of students from all over the country to the conference.

José Cárdenas: What kinds of things do you talk about?

Mariela Resendez: So there's different things. There's undergraduate tracks, graduate tracks, there's also competitions where we can compete in such as extreme engineering, technical poster competition, and academic Olympiad.

José Cárdenas: These are for people that are already in college?

Mariela Resendez: Yes.

José Cárdenas: So as president, what is your role?

Mariela Resendez: Just to inspire and to motivate our students to keep pursuing engineering. Although it may be hard, they can still succeed and be engineers.

José Cárdenas: And how many people are in your chapter?

Mariela Resendez: We have over 80 members and 50 active members.

José Cárdenas: And to be active, what does that mean? You attend meetings but are they also expected to participate in the outreach activities?

Mariela Resendez: Yes. So there's outreach, there's also leadership development, chapter development, different activities for them. Going to conferences, going to barbecues, creating mixers for other students and stuff like that.

José Cárdenas: And what about the mix between Latinas and Latinos in the organization? I know recently last week at -- it was an ASU function I think in Tucson and a few weeks before that, something similar put on by the U of A focused on Latinas. Is that a particular focus of your group as well?

Mariela Resendez: We target overall Hispanics in engineering. There's no specific target for Latinas but we try to attract them into our organization, as well.

José Cárdenas: But it's similar to what it is in the population at large in the sense that women are not as likely to think of engineering as a career until somebody says you know anybody can do this and it's really something to be interested in?

Mariela Resendez: Definitely. Well, we try to get involved with the conference, a function held by Intel at a community college where they try to attract as many women or girls in high school and middle schools into this program for them to get involved in engineering, to introduce them to engineering and get motivated to go into engineering itself.

José Cárdenas: And to give it a shot.

Mariela Resendez: Yes.

José Cárdenas: Carrie, is it working? In terms of the numbers of people who are involved? Is this kind of outreach working?

Carrie Robinson: Absolutely. So you're talking about women in engineering and nationally we're looking at about 20 percent of engineering students being female.

José Cárdenas: Is that a number that's decreased over time?

Carrie Robinson: Not necessarily. That's something that we're definitely pushing towards trying to get more and more females to feed into the pipeline, to come into engineering, to see that as a viable career option and that's where these outreach efforts really come into play. Same thing with, especially the Hispanic population. Because we know that there are so many family influences on their decisions, whether it's to go to college or whether to persist, that these events really do a good job of not only getting the students excited about pursuing engineering but also educating the family members to understand the benefits of a career in engineering so that these students are able to give back to their family and really kind of persist in engineering.

José Cárdenas: Mariela, last question. What is that a factor in your situation? The involvement of your family and convincing them that this was something that was good for you?

Mariela Resendez: Oh, yes. Well, kind of. When I first mentioned it to my parents they were like what, what are you doing in engineering? What is that? They were confused because I told them I was doing mechanical. They thought I was going to be a mechanic and I was like it has nothing to do with that. Once I explained what engineering was with them, they were really supportive, still very supportive to this day.

José Cárdenas: Well, before I switch to political science, I was an engineering major and all my relatives thought it meant I would be driving a train. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this wonderful program.

Both: Thank you.

Mariela Resendez:President, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers of ASU; Carrie Robinson:Chapter Advisor, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers of ASU;

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