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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

SBCC club for Hispanic engineers provides community, resources

Marlena Hughes
From left, Tyler Valderrama and Christopher Patzan-Lopez run for academic chair at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Fall 2019 club election on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Room 130 of the Physical Science building at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The City College chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers provides resources and community for minorities in engineering and helps students realize their full potential in a challenging field. 

The nation-wide organization was founded over 40 years ago and has 225 chapters. The organization also holds conventions and competitions, in addition to providing a place for students to feel comfortable.

“They have a place where they can call home,” said Luis De La Palma, faculty advisor for City College’s SHPE chapter. “They’re able to present their own culture and be unapologetic.”

According to De La Palma, many students in SHPE have never seen people like them represented in science fields before. 

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“This is here because, as first-generation students, we are not exposed to what scientists are,” De La Palma said. “We see other people who are the majority: white.”

De La Palma said he had never seen influential scientists who were also people of color until a convention for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, a sister program of SHPE. 

In addition to empowering members, SHPE also provides leadership opportunities for students.

“I never really saw myself as a leader,” said SHPE chapter President Mary Grace Sy. “Since I was given this opportunity I decided to run and challenge myself.”

SHPE is currently in the process of electing an academic chair and two potential candidates were given the opportunity to speak at the SHPE general meeting last Friday. 

“I would like to share my experience because I went through it and it’s hard, especially when you don’t have the right resources,” said Christopher Patzan-Lopez, a two-year member of SHPE. Patzan-Lopez is running against Tyler Valderrama for the leadership position and members will vote via poll before the next general meeting.

Both candidates pointed to the resources SHPE provides as a reason they have been successful in their major. SHPE allows students to go to local and national conventions, giving students networking opportunities in their field. It also offers speaker events, resume help, internships, workshops, projects and mentorships. 

“All of these students are lost,” De La Palma said of many engineering students before joining SHPE. “They know what they want to do and they know where to start, but they don’t know what that means.”

SHPE looks to bridge the gap between these students and the world of science. 

“It’s giving us more of an opportunity to do what we want to do regardless of how little resources we have,” said Sy.

Without SHPE, she said, “I wouldn’t be as outspoken, I wouldn’t be as confident, and I definitely wouldn’t be as empowered in my major.”

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