Spotlight on Student Engineers during 2015 Hispanic Heritage Month

Student Engineers during 2015 Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 until October 15, is a time to reflect upon the cultures, stories and achievements of American citizens who identify as Hispanic.

But for Andreina Vivas-Thomas, a junior studying Electrical and Computer Engineering at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, this month is no more special than any other.

“For me, every month is a Hispanic Heritage Month,” Vivas-Thomas proudly states.

Vivas-Thomas, of Caracas, Venezuela, is the President of NYU-SHPE, the NYU chapter of the nationwide Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Founded in 1974 in Los Angeles, California, SHPE quickly grew from a handful of self-employed engineers to a national organization gathering members of the Hispanic community who choose to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Today, a large share of its membership consists of undergraduate students forming local groups, such as the one at NYU, led by Vivas-Thomas.

Students participating in NYU-SHPE are privy to such benefits as hefty scholarship offerings, standardized test preparation courses and professional development workshops. They are also part of the global SHPE network that partners with reputable firms and corporations looking to hire student engineers after college. During the year, members have access to the online job posting system, in addition to which every November, they have an opportunity to meet their prospective employers at the SHPE National Conference.

The Conference is a focal point in the NYU-SHPE’s calendar.

“We take our members [to the Conference] every year,” says Vivas-Thomas, who adds that at the NYU chapter, the preparations for the Conference begin long before the event itself. “We have workshops preparing our members for the interviews at the Conference Career Fair.”

She explains that her colleagues also teach the students how to talk to recruiters and update their resumes and LinkedIn profiles so that they can “brand themselves in the right way.”

Professional development is a big part of the NYU-SHPE membership, but is not the only one. In fact, there are four other components, called “pillars,” that are core to the SHPE experience: academic excellence, chapter development, leadership development and community outreach.

As President of the NYU Chapter, Vivas-Thomas makes sure to fulfill all of them. NYU-SHPE offers a range of resources, notably the mentorship program for the first- and second-year members that helps them get settled in the challenging college academic environment.

For Vivas-Thomas, an exceptionally strong need for a community among Hispanics is the reason why SHPE goes above and beyond supporting its members on and off campus. It is also why the organization emphasizes community outreach. NYU-SHPE’s flagship project is to promote education in STEM fields at the local St. Joseph’s all-girls high school. The members run STEM activities, organize SAT preparation courses, and lead college application workshops in order to encourage female students to consider pursuing careers in engineering. “It is a challenge,” Vivas-Thomas says, “but we must give back in order to go forward.”

During this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, NYU-SHPE continues to educate about the accomplishments and the promise of members of the Hispanic community.

“I want people to be proud of where they come from, and to show that we, as Hispanics, are as good as anyone else,” Vivas-Thomas concludes.

Anna Bialas
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
B.S. in Media, Culture, and Communication | Class of 2017