Before the COVID-19 lockdown began, five members of the UMass Amherst Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Student Chapter attended the SHPE 2020 Region 4 Leadership Development Conference (RLDC) in Newark, New Jersey, and accepted the prestigious Blue Chip Chapter Award. The award is a significant accomplishment that reflects the SHPE students’ ability to organize, coordinate, and unify their organization to accomplish their chapter goals.
“The award became, in a way, the materialization of all the effort that the executive board put in throughout the year,” said Gerardo Aguilar, who is taking over as the SHPE chapter president for the 2020-2021 academic year. “Our incredibly hard-working 2019-2020 president, Ashley Fernandez, made sure to work really closely with the Community, Equity, and Inclusion (CEI) Hub - UMass Amherst to come up with a very diverse itinerary of events and opportunities for all our members. This, in exchange, brought in many newcomers and made the name of SHPE grow across the College of Engineering.”
Aguilar added that “We see the award as a recognition of these improvements, as well as a morale booster to continue succeeding in what has become a new era for SHPE, and the Latinx community in general, on campus.”
According to SHPE, the Blue Chip Award won by the UMass chapter signifies the SHPE students’ ability to: align their chapter plans and activities towards the effective recruitment, retention, and post-graduation of the chapter members; plan and implement their chapter plans effectively and obtain both qualitative and quantitative measurable outcomes in line with realizing the SHPE mission and vision; and obtain support from their local institutions and advisors, make contributions to the community, and learn from their best practices.
Broadly, the UMass SHPE chapter’s purpose is to promote the development of Hispanics in engineering, science, and other technical professions to achieve educational excellence, economic opportunity, and social equality. The chapter website explained that “SHPE changes lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support, and development.”
As Aguilar said about the SHPE chapter’s activities, “This past academic year we really focused on creating activities that were appealing to the general engineering body and to create a sense of community and inclusion. Our main objective was increasing participation and engagement while providing all our members with academic, recreational, and professional development opportunities.”
For the first time ever the SHPE chapter held a churros fundraiser at the Student Center that attracted multiple participants and resulted in a complete sellout. The event was so successful that the chapter certainly would have repeated it if not for the closure of campus.
Aguilar also said that “We held a potluck-style diversity night with two other engineering groups (the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers) in which attendees got to enjoy a mixture of catered and homemade meals and took part in an amazing Super Smash Bros tournament.”
RLDC is an annual conference for chapters to develop their leadership and professional skills. This year’s RLDC theme in Newark was “Ascend to New Heights.”
As Aguilar described the significance of the conference for our UMass SHPE chapter: RLDC is a great way for SHPE members from the same region to interact, get to know each other, and collaborate with each other.
Aguilar said that the RLDC “is filled with workshops that vary topics from women empowerment on the work field, to entrepreneurial and small business management, to problem solving, and many more. However, I would say the highlight of it is always the career fair, packed with companies that see and know of our potential and talent. Many of our UMass members have obtained internships or job interviews through it.”
SHPE is the nation’s largest national association dedicated to fostering Hispanic leadership in the STEM field. SHPE’s Region 4 is the largest of all seven regions. It makes up 25 to 30 percent of the total national membership and spans southward from Maine to Virginia (and Puerto Rico), and as far west as Pennsylvania.
The UMass SHPE chapter’s members who attended the RLDC were (from left to right in the accompanying photo): Erick Aguilera Gallardo, Aguilar, Aura Gomez-Tagle, Xilonen Vela-Garcia, and Pedro Gonzalez. Axel Vigo (far right) is the SHPE Boston professional chapter representative. (June 2020)