Diego Cabanillas and Xochitl Hernandez both have dreams of pursuing careers in engineering, but they also desire connection in a community that shares their same background and goals.
This pursuit led Cabanillas and Hernandez to join the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) in the Statler College.
“One of our (SHPE) main goals is to unite the Hispanic community at West Virginia University, and not only that, but present them with as many opportunities as possible,” said SHPE president and third year petroleum and natural gas engineering major, Diego Cabanillas.
WVU’s SHPE chapter has 11 members, including its four officers.
One of those officers, Xochitl Hernandez, is a sophomore studying mechanical and aerospace engineering from Valencia, California.
“There’s a small population of Hispanic people at this school and not many of them are STEM majors, so it’s nice to have a group of people who understand where you come from and what you’re going through while you’re at school,” Hernandez said.
The group holds official monthly meetings, weekly study sessions and additional events throughout the semester.
Among club activities and events, SHPE members have the opportunity to attend the national convention. Cabanillas and Hernandez were among five WVU students who traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to attend the conference in November 2019.
The convention gives students the opportunity to participate in workshops, listen to lectures and attend a job fair where students can interact with representatives from major companies.
“When I first went I didn’t have that many things on my resume and after that I realized that I needed to be a part of more clubs. I have to do more projects. I have to bump up my grades,” Cabanillas explained. “In a way, it really helps you scale yourself towards everyone else, which is really what engineering is. You’re competing against everyone else for a job. It really pushes you to do better.”
Members are encouraged to attend and participate in the annual conference each year.
“For me it was very important to learn how to set yourself up for a nice interview,” Hernandez said.
“It’s more important to show results than just to say that you’re a part of all of these things. You need to show you’re taking initiative and that you have verifiable results.”
The organization encourages students to push themselves at the conference and place their best foot forward in the highly competitive environment of the convention.
“Even though we’re all competing for the same jobs, the people there are extremely helpful,” Cabanillas said. “I’ve met other Hispanic engineers and they’ve looked over my resume and helped me fix things. That’s something you don’t see anywhere else really.”
The students also shared their thoughts on what makes SHPE important to WVU.
“It’s important for the College because we’re trying to build up our chapter to be as strong as it can,” said Cabanillas.
Hernandez added, “I think it also ties a bit into the slogan of the University, ‘Let’s go!’ We like to go first in all of our opportunities, so having a place for all of us in the University, no matter how small the population, is really important.”
SHPE welcomes new members from any STEM field who are in pursuit of a community on campus.
“We want a community of people and we want to lift each other up in what we do,” Hernandez said.
Lizzie Santiago, teaching associate professor and academic adviser of freshman engineering, is the adviser for the student organization.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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