SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

The SHPE convention is in town, but what exactly is SHPE?

Nov 2, 2023, 10:30 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 4:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers kicked off its national convention on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. The five-day convention will provide a wide array of educational and professional resources to Hispanics working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, more commonly known as STEM.

The SHPE expected 11,000 attendees and called the annual convention “the largest gathering of Hispanics in STEM.”

The SHPE is born

Local Convention Chair and angel investor Oscar Marquina said the SHPE started 49 years ago in Los Angeles, with a group of civil engineers. 

“They saw an opportunity to create an organization that supported other Hispanic engineers.”

Marquina said that as the SHPE grew, the need for STEM grew too.

While the SHPE was originally formed with engineers in mind, it soon evolved into a space for Hispanics working in any STEM field.

A need for community

Brigham Young University-Idaho student and founder of the BYUI SHPE chapter Rebeca Matoso is one of over 14,000 members. She’s no stranger to seeing the need for a space for Hispanic people in STEM.

Matoso is a business analytics student at BYUI. She said she’s often the only Latina in her classes.

On top of that, she’s also usually one of the only women in class.

“So you get scared. But you also can find strength, right?… Just because you only see men doesn’t mean that they are not there to help you,” she said, adding, “So what I found is that you can find strength in the differences and you can grow together,” Matoso told KSL NewsRadio.

As she made her way through college, Matoso networked. She had a lot of contacts but was lost, with no idea about what path she wanted to take.

Then, this year, her mentor recommended SHPE. Matoso’s mentor told her that the SHPE would provide a community to help her find her path in life.

When Matoso looked into the group, she liked what she saw. She founded BYUI’s chapter in March. The chapter has 60 members, most of whom plan to attend the convention.

“We knew that at the convention, it was the place where the opportunities were. Like we knew all the internships [and] full-time positions were going to be there.”

A network of role models

Even though the chapter is relatively new, Matoso said she’s gotten a lot out of it.

“When I learned about SHPE, and I learned that there are people out there just like me, trying to go through the same things like me, and they are succeeding … Oh my gosh, that changed my perspective.”

Matoso said she especially likes the networking that SHPE provides with Hispanics in her field. Those professionals, she said, are easy to approach and talk to and learn from.

“You don’t go anywhere if you don’t have good networking. And if you do go somewhere, you are going to be lost. It’s so much better if you have someone that already walked through the path.”

Matoso is in her last semester of college. She shared some wisdom for those who are still studying or figuring out what they want to do.

“There is so much opportunity out there for you, and so many people willing and wanting to help you. You just got to reach out,” she said, adding that opportunities often come from outside your comfort zone.

Matoso recommended looking outside of your school for organizations related to what you’re interested in.

“There are so many organizations outside that can help you provide a different network and a different perspective as well.”

Supporting and learning together

Miguel Ramos is a biomechanical engineer and COO and founder of Limble. Like Matoso, Ramos helped bring SHPE to his university.

While going to Utah State University, one of Ramos’ friends told him about SHPE. His friend led the charge and Ramos said he supported and helped as they got the chapter established.

The new chapter broke the mold, and brought in people who weren’t Hispanic.

“[Our] motto was ‘unity through diversity.’ And because of that, we wanted to make sure that we included people, no matter who they were. We wanted them involved if they wanted to be involved.”

The SHPE chapter provided a support network to members.

Ramos recalled a particular freshman, named Lenny. He attended a SHPE meeting and told the group he wanted to become an engineer and was interested in becoming a member.

“And we said, ‘Cool, what math have you taken?’ he’s like, ‘Oh, I really didn’t take math much in high school.”

Math is the first step toward engineering, Ramos said. “We realized that he was really far behind.”

From there, Lenny came in every day to spend time with other SHPE members who were further along in their schooling. At the start, Lenny hadn’t completed any of his math prerequisites. But he studied along with juniors and seniors, and Ramos said Lenny caught up quickly.

“It was so cool for me to see in my time there, that he went from someone who was so behind to catching up with the class, and I got to see him graduate a few years later, and that was amazing.”

There’s always a helping hand

That kind of support isn’t exclusive to SHPE though.

Ramos said, “It can seem really daunting, but there are people that can help you at every step of the way.”

Whether that’s professors, other students, or a study hall, Ramos said there’s always a helping hand.

That extends to career growth too. Ramos said that his SHPE chapter had speakers at every meeting. Hearing from experts gave members another opportunity to network and learn.

Outside of that, Ramos recommended talking to people in your field, who are in the position you want to be in.

“You’re going to find that sometimes they will say no because they’re really busy. But a lot of times, they’ll say yes, and they’re gonna come with a lot of their wisdom in their own fields.”

The 2023 SHPE convention runs until Sunday. Find more information about attending on the convention’s website.

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The SHPE convention is in town, but what exactly is SHPE?