Oklahoma students attend Hispanic STEM convention to move state up in science and technology innovation ranks


Hispanic STEM Convention

Oklahoma Universities sent students to the largest Hispanic STEM convention in the nation, but Oklahoma ranks low among states leading the way in STEM. Convention attendees aim to make Oklahoma’s science and technology innovation more competitive.

Hispanic people are one of the most underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics alongside Black and Indigenous people. Being underrepresented and coming from a state ranking 45th out of 50 in science and technology innovation, Abigail Solorzano says the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is special to her because of the endless resources.

“I’ve just been able to build a support system, gain so many resources and also attain an internship through being a part of SHPE,” Solorzano said.

Solorzano is a senior focusing in STEM at the University of Oklahoma. She said community outreach will be Oklahoma’s lifeline to competitive science and technology innovation.

“We host … a night of science where we bring in middle school and high school students to do projects with us and also allow them to see resources like the University of Oklahoma and their engineering program and financial aid workshops for their parents,” Solorzano said.

Solorzano stresses community outreach between schools, but SHPE CEO, Dr. Chris Wilkie, says groups can expand their community outreach even further.

“You go back to the regional level, we get those chapter leaders together and they start talking about best practices on how to engage at the local level,” Wilkie said.

Hispanic STEM Convention

Oklahoma’s SHPE is in region five along with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

Solorzano said she’s had a lot of success mingling between other chapters in region five. A friend from a Texas university even gave her name to a hiring manager after realizing Solorzano would be a good fit for the job.

“A lot of the activities that they do, the socials, the networking, that type of stuff — most of it is grassroots planned by their chapters,” Wilkie said. “So, a lot of it really is word of mouth and going back to that community outreach and engagement.”

Oklahoma State University senior, Cheyenne Mata, said the lifelong friendships SHPE has brought her have been an anchor for her in school to provide guidance and friendship when she’s in need.

“[SHPE] has helped me become more outgoing,” Mata said. “It’s given me so many opportunities to meet new people, it’s given me great friends at school — I don’t even call them my friends anymore, they’re my family, they’re my best friends.

The in-person convention lasted multiple days with students having opportunities to network, find internships, jobs and understand that they’re not alone in the STEM field.

“They’re people who I’m going to talk to outside of this, after I graduate and probably some will be in my wedding at some point,” Mata said.

Gaylord News is a Washington-based reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. For more stories from Gaylord News visit gaylordnews.net.