First-generation electrical engineering student overcomes imposter syndrome, paves way for himself

The University of Oklahoma has just over twenty percent of first generation college students in the class of 2024, but many first-generation students are still struggling to adapt to the college world.

First generation electrical engineering student, Saul Ortiz, is leading the way in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at OU through his involvement in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

“Something my dad always told me growing up … [translates to] put your batteries on,” Ortiz said. “It basically means if you want something, you gotta get it — like if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

For Ortiz, there is a will and a way, through SHPE. But Ortiz said being a first-generation college student isn’t easy, especially when you aren’t surrounded by people with similar backgrounds.

“Having that pressure on me is very very stressful,” Ortiz said. “Not a lot of people I can talk to about it just because a lot of people at OU aren’t first-generation especially being a person of color — I feel like there’s already that extra barrier, especially at OU.”

Ortiz is a third-year electrical engineering student at the University of Oklahoma, where white students make up about 58 percent of the student population while Hispanic students make up only about ten percent. So Ortiz sought out other ways to meet people like himself and he found SHPE.

“SHPE has done more than just help me, it’s changed who I am,” Ortiz said. I feel like before I wasn’t as confident as a leader or I didn’t feel like I belonged as much in the university.”

Imposter syndrome being something many first-generation students and students of color face in college. A feeling of not belonging. But Ortiz said, the Society of hispanic Professional Engineers has encouraged him to dream big and stay true to himself.

“My dream STEM career is definitely being a big positive role model in my community, but definitely somewhere where I can make an impact on the lives of people on a daily basis,” Ortiz said. “So maybe a company like Tesla or AT&T.”

The Hispanic STEM organization doesn’t stop at providing leadership opportunities, they also bring job opportunities right to the table. Tesla, Delta Airlines, Johnson & Johnson and many other big-name companies attended the Society fo Hispanic Professional Engineers convention with an array of job opportunities for student attendees.

For additional resources on the Hispanic STEM organization, SHPE’s leadership team encourages community members to visit their website.

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