October 15, 2013

For Gabriel Rivera, becoming an engineer is about more than personal achievement. 

“Being a Latino in STEM means making a difference; making an impact,” said Rivera. “It’s about being a leader and an advocate for socioeconomic improvement.”

As president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers’ LSU chapter, Rivera, a Honduran native who came to LSU in pursuit of a biological engineering degree, is helping foster a sense of community for other Latinos at the College of Engineering.

“SHPE is a student organization where I feel understood,” said Rivera. “That is why we like to call ourselves the SHPE familia.”

LSU’s SHPE chapter celebrated its 20th anniversary in the college last year. Its current membership holds 20 aspiring engineers, including biological engineering major and SHPE vice president Elizabeth Heredia. For Heredia, who also serves as SHPE’s junior advisor in charge the organization’s K-12 outreach program, being a part of SHPE enables her to inspire young Latinas to follow her path.  

“Latinas in STEM fields stand out,” she said. “Some Latinas my age are married and starting families. I’m proud that I’m not a statistic or a stereotype. I want to show other Latinas what is possible.”

SHPE members also fulfill the organization’s mission of “empowering Latinos … through STEM awareness, access, support and development” by partnering with organizations like Engineers Without Borders and participating in LSU College of Engineering’s Diversity Advisory Board.

Networking is a critical component of the college experience for civil engineering major Selina Alvarez. She joined SHPE because the organization offered opportunities to connect with other Latino students and the broader LSU engineering community.  

“When I came to LSU, I heard about SHPE and decided to get connected,” said Alvarez, who serves as the organization’s secretary. “It’s nice to have a community that shares a similar cultural background, and it’s a big plus knowing that we are all going towards the same career path.”

Academic excellence and professional development are also key to preparing for a successful career, and SHPE encourages its member to excel academically and complement their studies with hands-on experience in their respective fields.

 “It’s all about building connections and networks for the future and the real world,” continued Alvarez.

That network will include top companies across all engineering disciplines. Past-SHPE president Laura Patino is an ExxonMobil Scholar and has completed two internships with Shell Oil during her time at LSU. Treasurer Daniela Kruger recently completed her second internship with Chevron. Heredia was a Tulane Science Scholar and is currently working at Southern Medical Corporation, while Rivera returned to Honduras over the summer to work on greenhouse crop segmentation projects with a non-profit organization.    

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, SHPE’s LSU chapter celebrates its members’ contributions to the College of Engineering.  

“SHPE is about making connections, whether it is with academic superiors, company representatives or fellow classmates,” said Rivera.

“We are opening up a network for future generations of Latinos in STEM,” said Alvarez.

If the achievements of the current membership are any indication, SHPE’s LSU chapter is building an impressive legacy for future Latino students at the College of Engineering.


Article by Liz Lebrón, communications graduate assistant, LSU College of Engineering. For more information, contact Mimi laValle, mlavall@lsu.edu, 225-578-5706.


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