The professional networking conference is intended to promote diversity in STEM and celebrate the contributions of the CEC’s diverse student organizations. The event will also provide networking and professional development opportunities for students with alumni, faculty and industry leaders.
“It's exciting to have different minority organizations within engineering and computing come together and create an event where students and professionals can interact, network and connect on LinkedIn. It's not super intense but very casual,” says chemical engineering senior Karolina De La Paz, who serves as event coordinator and president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). “I think it's different than a career fair. Students are less stressed, and they can easily interact with professionals.”
The event’s origin came from a dinner for CEC student organizations during the 2021-2022 fall semester that was hosted by Inclusive Programs Coordinator Brian McCaster. SHPE envisioned hosting a professional networking event and promoting representation of not only Hispanics in STEM but other minorities. Last year’s inaugural Diversity Gala featured four keynote speakers, 25 professionals and 125 students. According to De La Paz, this year’s goal is to at least double the number of professionals and reach closer to 200 students in attendance.
As a first generation and minority student, I appreciate the faculty and students for providing a networking event that celebrates diversity. During my experience [last year], I learned about different engineering fields and backgrounds. I would love to see the gala become a tradition for minority students to feel seen and encouraged for many years to come.
- Denise Garcia Mesa, Computer Science ‘24
Neve Steger, a senior marine science major and environmental engineering minor, is marketing director for the Diversity Gala. She is also president of Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE), a professional and social sorority for women in STEM disciplines. Despite being in a major outside of the CEC, she promotes the event to members of the sorority, many of whom attend the College of Arts and Sciences.
“It's a great opportunity to practice attending an event with professionals and keynote speakers. For some students, it's a first-time networking opportunity to interact with professionals and practice eye contact and selling yourself. The more practice the better, which I think is a great benefit of the gala,” Steger says.
McCaster added that the Diversity Gala challenges students to pursue their own unique version of excellence. “Everyone who takes advantage of this opportunity to engage with peers, learn from faculty, and listen to industry leaders gains invaluable perspective as growing engineers, computer scientists and innovators.”
In addition to SHPE and AOE, the other host organizations are the National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineering and Pi Tau Sigma. ExxonMobil, Kyocera, Capgemini, Wabtec, Safe Rack, Fluor, UPS and Dominion Energy are corporate sponsors, and professionals from these companies are expected to attend.
Students may RSVP for the Diversity Gala though Garnet Gate.