Photo courtesy of SHPE

For international students and students with strong ties to their ethnicities, coming to Tech can prove to be quite the shock. The new culture and traditions, coupled with academics and a new social life, can prove challenging and daunting. However, there are many student organizations here on campus that serve to provide a familiar and supportive community for various international  groups and ethnicities.

Among these is the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), which serves to create a welcoming Hispanic community, encourage academic growth and performance and also allow for professional goals to be met. However, upon closer inspection, the society provides so much more for both its members and for
the community.

The society’s president, Juan Tovar, sees SHPE first and foremost as a means for “empowering anyone to desire to embrace and experience the Hispanic community and culture.”

The mission was not always this inclusive and welcoming, however. The society, its executive board and its board of directors have worked tirelessly to change the outlook of the society from one that is perceived as a clique to a family on campus.

“It used to be like a tight little niche, not very inclusive, not representative of the community,” Tovar said. “We’ve really pushed to be more accepting of anyone who wants to experience the Hispanic community and culture.”

This work started with the society’s leadership by changing the way they perceive their mission.

“I wanted to make sure that the board of the directors and the people who help to accomplish our goals are appreciated, but also understand what we need to do,” Tovar said. “We need to go out in the community and meet with our members. We need to show people that we can speak English, but still love the Hispanic culture and community.”

Through this came a change in the society’s atmosphere, making it more exciting and enjoyable. This has also led to many other changes represented in the growth of SHPE, both in membership and strength of community.

“This year as president I’ve seen the organization shift. It was a huge deal my freshman year when we reached 200 members. A huge deal! Last year were had about 330!” Tovar exclaimed.

Growth in student involvement in SHPE has led to a greater ability uphold the society’s five pillars: academics, chapter development, leadership development, professional development and community service. By supporting professional development through national SHPE career fairs, chapter development through the Professional Experience Program and community outreach through working with local high school SHPE chapters, the society is better realizing its mission of creating a community.

“You know, all of the great things that I’ve experienced while here at Tech, none of that would have happened without the sense of family that SHPE creates,” Tovar said. “That no doubt is the biggest thing. I’ve grown with my friends through SHPE, met people through SPHE. It’s a great way to build a community of togetherness.”

Having left his mark and set the course for SHPE, Tovar wants to see these trends of acceptance and embracement of the Hispanic culture stay on course.

“I want to see the shift towards acceptance and involvement continue. I want to see SHPE continue to be the backbone for the Hispanic community. If you are Hispanic and you are here, I want you to be able to count on SHPE for anything you need. We’re brothers, we’re sisters, we’re a family,” Tovar said.

SHPE has worked to redefine itself so that its mission is embodied in the society’s outlook, activities and members. It is evident in the change in the SHPE community that the society has done just that. As a result, their leadership has created an inclusive, productive, professional and supportive organization for Tech’s large Hispanic community.