In Valpo’s College of Engineering, students are encouraged to explore their professional interests and foster community through extracurricular involvement. Two student organizations — the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) — were recently established to serve as professional homes for historically underrepresented students within the College of Engineering.
“I was drawn to the idea of joining a Black community where we all are working toward similar educational goals,” says Justine Dorsey ’24, a mechanical engineering major with a minor in Spanish. “The community has been very beneficial as a first-year student. Coming to Valpo, I didn’t know anyone, but I met friends through NSBE who are all engineering majors and are able to give me advice about the classes they have already taken.”
NSBE at Valpo focuses on increasing awareness and interest in various engineering disciplines and careers among younger, underrepresented students. The chapter champions the fundamental objectives of the national organization — excelling academically, succeeding professionally, and positively impacting the community.
Both organizations promote career development, community involvement, and professional networking opportunities for their members. They regularly host events based around these goals including game nights, speaker series, study tables, and partnerships with Valpo’s Career Center.
“I really hope that all students feel welcomed and that they have a safe space in which to open up,” says Abbi Damacio ’22, a mechanical engineering major with minors in electrical engineering, mathematics, and Spanish. “I remember being a freshman, being overwhelmed, and not knowing many people, but SHPE helped change that. SHPE is where I found my mentors and others just like me. It has made my college experience a lot more fun, and at the same time has really helped put me on the right track.”
Valpo’s SHPE chapter works to fulfill the goals of the national organization — changing lives by empowering the Hispanic/LatinX community to realize its fullest potential and impacting the world through STEM awareness access, support, and development. At Valpo, that starts with members building each other up at every meeting, working to create a world where the LatinX community is highly valued and influential as leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.
The national organizations for NSBE and SHPE also host annual conventions that Valpo students regularly attend.
“As a freshman SHPE invited me to go to the national conference, and the rest was history,” says Monica Magallanes ’22, a civil engineering major with a minor in Spanish. “Not only did I become really close with upperclassmen, who eventually became my mentors, but I also was able to meet and connect with high achieving engineers who looked like me and came from a similar background. You never know how much it affects you to have representation in your field until you go to a place where there are thousands of people who are like you.”
The resources and networking experiences gained through these conferences and other opportunities from the national organizations help promote success at the institutional level.
“Being a member of NSBE is preparing me for success after graduation from Valpo because it is teaching me valuable leadership and teamwork skills,” Justine says. “There are a lot of networking opportunities and the opportunity to add experiences to build up my résumé.”
Beyond the specific events and opportunities, each organization holds the same values of increasing inclusion efforts in the College of Engineering.
“SHPE’s goal is to create a world where Hispanics are highly valued and influential as the leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers,” Monica says. “For us, that starts here at Valpo, building each other up at every meeting. We hope all SHPE members feel appreciated and valued in STEM and feel a sense of community at the University.”
While both organizations are just beginning at Valpo, the foundation these students are creating will ensure future Black and Hispanic students will find community in the College of Engineering from their first days on campus.