Nicole Morales, one of Walden’s newest interns, recently attended the national convention of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) and reflected on her participation. Here she talks about what the experience meant to her and how she plans on using what she learned now and in the future.  

How did the conference help attendees?  
NM:  The national convention represents a wonderful opportunity for members to connect with large companies and university recruiters from across the country. Workshops provided members with information to help young engineers navigate through the workplace without having any prior experience. 

Throughout the conference, representatives from large companies shared valuable insights about their companies with attendees, helping to explain their mission and culture. This allowed students to engage more with the company and share their own interests and career goals. Workshops were organized to benefit attendees in what they were interested in learning. Some of the workshops included:

  • Sustainability in STEM
  • STEM Leaders: Career Panel
  • Etiquette for the Corporate World
  • Imposter Syndrome: Who Do You See in The Mirror?

How did you learn about it?  
The conference information was presented by the SHPE club on campus at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz. The Executive Board of our local SHPE club reached out to resources such as the national chapter of SHPE, the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP), and the SUNY New Paltz Dean of the Science and Engineering office. Funding was provided through these resources and from the New York State Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. Those of us that attended were very grateful for the funding and the experience of attending the conference as a group.   

What was the most valuable part of the conference? 
All of the workshops were particularly useful and the one that resonated the most with me was Imposter Syndrome: Who Do You See in the Mirror. As a first-generation female college student in engineering, it is easy to feel unheard. I have struggled in some of my best classes because I lost confidence even when I studied hard and performed beyond expectations. Going to this workshop encouraged me to be more confident to achieve the goals I want. It is also important to encourage others to be confident in their work and to help build productive teams to achieve common goals. I look forward to using these skills in my remaining classes and in my career. 

In addition to the workshops, SHPE provided opportunities for students to apply to internships and full-time positions across the country. The organization also has alumni-funded scholarship opportunities that are available to help aid the cost of education for many low-income students. 

SHPE also supports women through a program called SHPE-tinas that consists of a network of female engineering majors. Members work to empower and provide tips to females in the STEM fields. Throughout the conference there were many workshops targeting SHPE-tina members that also allowed us to meet peers from different universities. Subjects that were covered in the workshops included retaining women in STEM and STEM leaders: Career panel. Graduate members shared their experiences within the engineering field and how they navigated through the struggle of being a minority. 

Did you learn any practical skills that will help you in your career?
The conference helped build my networking and soft skills that I use daily in the workplace. Topics such as body language, communication, dress codes, and first impressions were covered and many examples were presented. I plan to continue to build these skills through my position at Walden Environmental Engineering and future employment opportunities. I also gained an understanding of expected behavior at professional events which will make me more comfortable at similar venues in the future.   

The goal of SHPE is to provide opportunities for minorities to grow within the field of engineering as well as connect them to other students. Being at the conference around so many engineering students was empowering and motivated me to continue working hard in my classes. It was eye-opening to see students from across the country attending the conference. Getting the chance to learn about each other’s career goals helped inspire all of us to continue on our path. Being at the conference was both a humbling and inspiring experience and I look forward to seeing others and myself grow.