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Student clubs take pride in diversity

University of Tulsa students actively look for ways to promote diversity and inclusion on campus and in their future careers. When mechanical engineering major Alyssa Hernandez arrived at TU in the fall of 2014, she wanted to connect with fellow students who were studying engineering, but TU’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) had fallen inactive. With the help of a small group of determined students, she started from scratch. Hernandez and another TU student attended the National Institute for Leadership Advancement (NILA) at Facebook headquarters, networking with employers and learning how to further the SHPE mission.

“The SHPE organization is more than just empowering Hispanics to overcome the obstacles of higher education, but to diversify the workforce and create more of an inclusive community,” she said.

SHPE members attended national and regional conferences, volunteered alongside regional chapters at a Habitat for Humanity site and homeless shelter and helped host two events where students from low-income areas participated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities.

During the past two years, Hernandez said the chapter has grown from six to 15 members with corporate support from Chevron. Thanks to SHPE networking opportunities, she has received her first engineering internship and inspired other minority groups to become more active.

student diversity
Members of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society for Black Engineers often partner for events including a group holiday party.

Much like SHPE, the National Society for Black Engineers was virtually nonexistent until it was revived in 2015 with seven members. Since then, the group has doubled in size while striving to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers. The NSBE receives support from companies such as Chevron and ConocoPhillips. President Donovan Adesoro, a petroleum engineering junior, said professional development workshops and job fairs are a valuable resource for the corporate world.

“They allow us to network with industry professionals who work at Fortune 500 companies,” he said. “Unfortunately, these job fairs will be one of the few in their lifetime when they interview with employees who all look like them.”

While making lifelong friends and preparing for a career, Adesoro said giving back to the community is his favorite part of NSBE.

Another newer engineering club is the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, reinstated in March 2016. It regularly collaborates with AISES junior programs and Native American clubs.

“I have seen first-hand that Native American children are not reaching their full potential because of cultural norms or a lack of funding,” said group president and mechanical engineering student Amanda Hooper. “I do not want to sit idly by as my people struggle.”

TU offers many clubs and organizations for underrepresented student populations including the Society for Gender Equality, the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Business, American Indian Cultural Society, Asian American Student Association, Association of Black Collegians, Latin American Student Association, Pride at TU and Leaders Incorporated.