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Posted 6/19/2013

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“Come one; come all,” is the invitation extended from the president of the recently formed chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in Vicksburg, Miss.

José E. Sánchez, acting director of the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, explains that the SHPE is not just for engineers.

“Anybody can be a member, not just engineers” said Sánchez. “Normally you would think that membership is limited to Hispanic professional engineers, but we welcome non engineers as associate members.”

The open membership encourages camaraderie among professionals and the opportunity for professional growth through friendship. The president of the newly-formed chapter welcomes members from other professional disciplines – from accountants to scientists because each discipline contributes to other’s success.

The road to the new chapter began several years ago when Sánchez discovered the national organization tucked away in an exhibitor’s booth while attending the Hispanic National Achievement Award Conference. He spent a few minutes talking to the representatives, but that was all it took.

Over the course of the next 18 months, Sánchez joined the national organization; convinced 10 coworkers to join him in setting up the first professional chapter in Region V (Southeast) not in Texas; established a board and wrote by-laws; and held the first formal general membership meeting.

Sánchez admitted that establishing the chapter “was the easy part.” Now he and members of the Mississippi Professional Chapter of the SHPE face myriad challenges.

“We need to expand; to find a permanent meeting place; to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in the schools; to meet with the student chapter at Mississippi State University (MSU) and to attract members from outside the Corps,” the acting director said as he ticked off the near-term objectives.

He and the board members have goals and objectives they want to achieve. The first adventure was to conduct a seminar in conjunction with the MSU chapter. Sánchez explained the path for an engineering professional career, addressing the challenges, opportunities and providing a personal perspective. Other members of the Vicksburg chapter joined him in the open discussion.

This first venture proved successful. Now the board wants to create more outreach opportunities for members while recruiting new members.

The local chapter is looking for ways to introduce local students to STEM opportunities. “We need to establish a formal relationship with the local schools,” he said. “Members could serve as judges at science fairs, be speakers at local schools and find recurring activities to work with the students such as interactive workshops and science and engineering days.”

As plans for future events unfold, the Mississippi Professional Chapter of the SHPE is seeking members to become mentors in the local community. “Mentorship is not just about helping someone in their career; it entails building friendship and trust with the individual.” 

If you are interested in joining the Mississippi Chapter of the Society Hispanic Professional Engineers, send an email to shpe.mississippi@gmail.com.

CHL ERDC hispanic minority outreach STEM Vicksburg