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Supporting Openness in STEM Key for Northwestern SHPE

Luis Zaragoza and Kevin Mendoza Tudares outlined how the Northwestern SHPE chapter reaches its goals

Luis Zaragoza and Kevin Mendoza Tudares discussed the Northwestern SHPE chapter, which helps Hispanics get support, recognition, and representation within STEM while promoting the advancement of all ethnicities, majors, and backgrounds in education, employment, and society.

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is a national social-technical organization whose primary function is to enhance and achieve the potential of Hispanics in engineering, math, and science.

That isn’t the only goal of the Northwestern SHPE chapter.

During their October 20 virtual presentation, part of Northwestern Engineering’s One McCormick lecture series, chapter president Luis Zaragoza (’22) and vice president Kevin Mendoza Tudares (’22) said despite the group’s name, membership is inclusive, welcoming those who are not Hispanic or engineers. 

Julio M. Ottino

“We’re open to anyone who wants to develop themselves within STEM,” said Zaragoza, a third-year chemical engineering major.

As he introduced Zaragoza and Mendoza Tudares, Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering, discussed the need for Northwestern Engineering community members to understand each other. For the entire network to function well, he said, it’s important to see how each part works.

“We can all learn — and by all, I mean faculty and graduate students — about how groups organize themselves,” Ottino said. “What are the structures they have? If there are good things that these groups are doing, you should adopt them and copy them. Structures do not recognize if the group is faculty-driven or undergrad-driven or graduate-driven.”

SHPE was founded in 1974 by a group of engineers employed by the city of Los Angeles and now has 11,000 members with 375 collegiate chapters. The Northwestern chapter, founded in the mid-1990s and currently with more than 20 active members, helps Hispanics get support, recognition, and representation within STEM while promoting the advancement of all ethnicities, majors, and backgrounds in education, employment, and society.

The chapter stages events for personal and professional development, welcomes alumni for panels, and provides mentorship programs for new members to learn from more senior counterparts. 

Community outreach includes:

  • A student initiative program for fifth graders to inspire students to become interested in STEM
  • A similar effort for high schoolers but has a higher emphasis on how to navigate college applications, financial aid, and advising
  • SHPE members coaching high school students at local science competitions
  • Collaboration with nearby SHPE chapters to host “Noche de Ciencias” events meant to engage and inspire Hispanic youth and their parents to pursue STEM degrees

Those works motivated Mendoza Tudares to join SHPE. He wanted to be part of a group with people supporting the same mission, and was excited for that chance.

“The biggest reason that got me into SHPE was knowing that I have a community of people that identify with me, or just support those that share my identity,” said Mendoza Tudares, a third-year computer science major. “Making sure that we all have a very welcoming community (and) from what I’ve learned in my very early freshman year and even the summer before, SHPE was just a very welcoming place.”

In an effort to build community and enhance connectivity amongst the dynamic network at Northwestern Engineering, the One McCormick lecture series provides faculty and students with a venue to present their efforts. Initially, the series will focus on the student experience, including diversity, health and wellness, and student success. 

The program kicked off October 7 with a presentation by Leah Payne (’22), a chemical engineering major and president of the Northwestern chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. The series continued October 14 when computer science major Emily Jenkins (’22) discussed the Northwestern chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

The next event is Wednesday, October 28, and will feature the Women in Computing Northwestern chapter. Registration is required to attend.