October 14, 2014

LSU’s total enrollment surpassed 30,000 students this year, and it can sometimes seem overwhelming for students to find a sense of community. Community building is key to student success, and there are dozens of clubs at the College of Engineering to encourage student involvement, networking and friendship.

One club in particular, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or SHPE, helps foster community among the College’s growing Hispanic cohort. SHPE’s operating philosophy is based on five pillars of success: community outreach, chapter development, professional development, leadership, and academics. The organization focuses on advancing a different pillar during each chapter meeting. Recent activities include a SHPE-hosted career fair to build professional development and a freshman roundtable to discuss and encourage leadership in the field.

Electrical engineering freshman Danny Ahlskog said he enjoyed studying with his fellow club members during a recent “Cookies and Coffee” study session, an event sponsored by SHPE as part of the organization’s mission to promote academic success among its members. Ahlskog decided to join SHPE shortly after arriving at LSU because of his Hispanic roots, though he was also seeking camaraderie.

“I found community in SHPE by participating in many events and getting to know other members,” Ahlskog said. “Talking about where we came from, our families, and our shared culture would bring any group of people to feel like a community.”

Civil engineering senior Selina Alvarez, who serves as the organization’s president, joined SHPE to meet students of diverse backgrounds and to broaden her understanding of Hispanic culture.

“After I joined SHPE, I was able to meet people who were not just born and raised as a Hispanic in America, but also people who come from other countries,” she said. “It went above and beyond my expectations of meeting Hispanics. It expanded my culture, and it helped that we all want to go into the same career field.”

Ahlskog also appreciates diversity both in SHPE and within the College. He was born in Kuwait to a Columbian mother and a Finnish father.

“SHPE isn’t just for Hispanics. It’s for everyone,” he said. “We try to promote other cultures in SHPE. Other than being part of a great community, I believe SHPE will give me and my fellow members many skills that will benefit us exponentially.”

Alvarez encourages people of all races and ethnicities to join SHPE.

“It is important to embrace not just your own cultural heritage, but also other people’s culture,” she said. “We try to emphasize that you don’t have to be Hispanic to join.”

Alvarez said her favorite aspect of SHPE is how it empowers the Hispanic community to dive into engineering.

“SHPE’s purpose is to expand the Hispanic community in engineering,” Alvarez said.

“College is about academics, but it is also about the relationships you make with people along the way and the memories you make with those people,” Alvarez said.

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Article by Danielle Kelly, LSU College of Engineering communications intern. For more information, contact Mimi LaValle, mlavall@lsu.edu. 



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