Oxnard STEM Students Recognized at National SHPE Conference


Oxnard, CA –  Seven Oxnard College students ­­ –– Rafael Hernandez, Melani Castellanos, Andres Medrano, Siara Gonzalez, Gloria Rodriguez, Luis Melendez, and Jasmin Ortiz ­­–– were recognized at the 2017 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Conference held in Kansas City, Missouri, this past November 2017. In addition to fully-funded travel and accommodation coverage, OC SHPE received an honorary plaque in commendation of the Chapter’s exemplary leadership and growth.

Founded in 2016 by Oxnard College Engineering student Rafael Hernandez, OC SHPE has transformed into one of the largest and most active organizations on campus. In alignment with the national org’s mission, our local chapter is working to increase the number of Hispanic students who pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and professions.

This is an important effort. STEM fields offer some of the highest paid professional opportunities in our global economy –– leading to greater socioeconomic mobility.


Nationally, however, Hispanic students are underrepresented in these fields. According to the US Department of Education, Hispanics account for only 10 percent of those earning STEM degrees. Other figures are yet less representative of present and trending demographics. Professionally, Hispanics account for only two percent of those working in STEM fields within the United States.

OC SHPE is working for change. Student-by-student, here locally in the City of Oxnard and more broadly in Ventura County, our local Chapter is demystifying STEM. Through networking events, field trips, mentoring, professional workshops, collaborative faculty partnerships, and conferences like this 2017 SHPE national gathering, students are gaining important exposure to educational pathways of greater opportunity. What does it take to be an engineer? A neurosurgeon? A computer scientist? An agronomist? OC SHPE is showing ‘how’ and bringing a diversity of role models to help illuminate ‘who’ –– Hispanic professionals of similar starting points that have succeeded in their diverse careers.

At this year’s conference, over 6,500 graduate and undergraduates were in attendance. OC SHPE members were able to network with students from across the United States, participate in professional development workshops and access an exclusive career fair with representatives from Google, Facebook, Texas Instrument and Lockheed Martin, among others. OC SHPE President Rafael Hernandez interviewed with Intel, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Accenture, which then led to a summer 2018 internship offer with Northrop Grumman. Four of OC’s Latina members attended SHPEtina, a special series of workshops that provided them the opportunity to network with Latina STEM leaders, including CEOs.


Gloria Rodriguez, an OC SHPE member majoring in Computer Science, said that the relationships she built with other female Hispanic STEM students and professionals helped alleviate her doubts of pursuing a career in computer science.

The conference provided professional exposure that students would not have been able to receive elsewhere had they not attended. OC SHPE is thankful for the generous funding support from the Oxnard College Associated Student Government (ASG) and Title V HSI Grant.

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