Hispanic Heritage Month event celebrates achievement in STEM

Hispanic and Latinx students and STEM educators share insights and advice

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science held two online panel sessions in October to celebrate the achievement of Hispanic and Latinx individuals and communities across engineering and applied science disciplines. 

Hosted by the college’s Office of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement, the event also brought light to issues potentially faced by Hispanics and Latinx students, in the College of Engineering and Applied Science and across the nation.

a screenshot of a video call. A young woman is in the main speaker panel

Civil engineering student Ambar Alvarez-Garcia was a panelist at the event. Photo/Provided.

The first session, “How Latinx and Hispanic Culture is Changing the Face of Engineering,” featured a panel of undergraduate students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, including Ambar Alvarez-Garcia (pre-junior, civil engineering), Emily Casasola (senior, mechanical engineering), Adam Noriega (sophomore, chemical engineering), and Laura Rodriguez, (pre-junior, computer science). 

Panelists shared stories about choosing their major and how their culture impacts their perspective, their approach to engineering and the field itself. They also described challenges they have personally faced as Hispanic and Latinx students at UC. 

The panel highlighted a variety of personal and financial circumstances that a significant number of Hispanic and Latinx students might have to navigate: being a first-generation college student, securing funding for college through military service, speaking English as a second language. Many Hispanic and Latinx people, especially children of immigrants, work and send money home to their families in other countries. 

Insight into these factors and other challenges that frequently impact Hispanic and Latinx students and communities is crucial in the development of responsive student support strategies. 

John Weidner, dean of UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, spoke about the importance of creating an inclusive, welcoming environment at the college and removing barriers to student success. 

“Engineers have done amazing things for the world, and diversity and inclusion are critical in what we do and how we operate as a profession,” said Weidner. “Diversity of thought, cultures, experiences, languages, perspectives and more are needed if we are to solve the world’s most challenging problems, and it is critical that our faculty, staff, and students reflect that diversity so we can better educate the next generation of engineers.” 

In the second panel, “How to Provide an Equitable Education for the Latinx and Hispanic Community,” educators from middle school to higher education shared their experiences and knowledge on how to improve education for Hispanic and Latinx students.  

Panelists included: 

  • Tyler Knecht, a STEM teacher from Withrow High School who coaches students to pursue their interest in robotics. 
  • Maria Hildalgo, a long time Cincinnatian known for her commitment to the Latinx community who is an English as a Second Language (ESL) educator from Withrow High School. 
  • Darienne Curio Sanchez, a scientist turned educator, who is now Urban Middle school teacher, creating ESL (English as a Second Language) STEM curriculum for grades 6-8. 
  • Daniel Cruz De Arrellano, a University of South Florida Professor who advocates for inclusive curricula and LGBTQ students in STEM. 

Discussion points included challenges faced by students at all levels, how to increase representation of Hispanic and Latinx in STEM and higher education, creating an inclusive curriculum and more.  

“The event was an exciting opportunity to celebrate the contributions and impact of our Hispanic and Latinx students and learn about best practices to engage students,” said Paula Lampley, director of women in engineering programs for the college. 

All faculty, staff and students were invited to the event. 

Diversity and educational transformation

Diversity of thought, cultures, experiences, languages and perspectives are needed if we are to solve the world’s most challenging problems and better educate the next generation of engineers and scientists. 

Read more stories about how the College of Engineering and Applied Science is impacting the world.

Featured image at top: silhouettes of heads in varying shades and colors. Photo/ Lightspring/Shutterstock.