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Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Highlights Leadership, Community and Empowerment
Karen Herrera ’24 knows all too well how much work goes into running a student organization. Having started as the events coordinator for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at Syracuse University, she now serves as the current co-president, which is a big step up in workload.
The extra work is worth it. At SHPE, Herrera has been able to balance academic and organizational work and found a supporting community where she can be herself. “I didn’t realize how much work it would actually be, but it keeps me busy,” says Herrera, a senior studying computer science. “I love what I do and everyone I’ve met.”
Founded in 1987 to empower Latinos and Hispanics in the STEM field, SHPE at Syracuse University strives to create a diverse environment on the University campus and help students reach their fullest potential. It’s open to all students and comprises both engineering and non-engineering students. Herrera was in a STEM program for underrepresented groups in high school so when she came to the University, she was eager to be a part of SHPE’s mission. Initially, she was a general member but her passion for the cause led her to take on the role of events coordinator.
As the events coordinator, she helped organize the very first Brillanté Banquet, a grand event SHPE hosts to highlight Hispanic excellence within their community. And it was quite the spectacle. Taking place towards the end of the spring semester, the event entailed a catered dinner, an award ceremony, performances from individuals and organizations across campus, as well as a keynote speaker.
“The planning takes pretty much all semester. We have to reserve the venue and submit catering requests as well as find performers and our keynote speaker. We also submit budget requests to be able to pay for everything,” Herrera says. “It was one of my favorite events last year and I’m looking forward to it this year too.”
The Brillanté Banquet also gave Herrera insight into organizing large-scale events and communication efforts within the college. This instilled in her a desire to take up a leadership role within the organization and she would eventually become the co-president of SHPE at Syracuse with Julia Ruiz ‘24.
“Our last vice president, Julia, wasn’t ready to let go of SHPE just yet. She loved the work and community too much,” Herrera says. “That’s why we’re doing a co-presidency, and this is the first time it’s been done. We communicate occasionally, and she’s a very resourceful person.”
As co-president, Herrera oversees all of SHPE’s organizational activities. The organization is actively collaborating with several companies to get its name recognized, and it has also received invitations from other local companies to collaborate. Herrera spends time reading and responding to emails and assisting with event coordination and monthly meetings.
“Our monthly meetings are where we discuss upcoming events, networking, volunteer opportunities or just catch up. We usually meet between 7-8 p.m. depending on people’s availability” Herrera says. “During a recent meeting, we took a break from our usual discussions and made slime to de-stress.”
As the end of the year approaches, the organization also hosts a “Cocoa and Cram” event, which is a study session for finals where hot cocoa is served for attendees – something Herrera always looks forward to. “Most of the time, it’s not that much studying. It’s just nice to hear how everyone’s semester went. It’s very chill,” she says.
Another event Herrera is looking forward to is the SHPE National Convention in early November, which is held in a different city each year and brings in thousands of Hispanic students in STEM. With networking, workshops, and awards, it’s an opportunity that many students don’t want to miss. “This is my first convention and I’m excited for the workshops and career fair. It’s going to be big,” Herrera says.
As she continues to work towards her goal of breaking into STEM, Herrera has loved the close relationships she’s formed with the group’s members and the club has been the perfect place for like-minded, ambitious individuals with a passion for STEM to connect.
“I love how the club has become a little family. Our meetings are so long because we get sidetracked and talk about other things,” Herrera says. “The connections and friends I’ve made here are great and I’m grateful to be part of this organization.”
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