Student Organizations Hold Event to Celebrate Diversity in Engineering

MAES booth

Engineering student organizations gathered Monday to celebrate diversity in engineering with ethnic food, cultural displays, technical projects, engineering problems, and a panel of African-American, American Indian, Asian-American, and Latinx engineering students.

The event was organized by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), with support from the Associated Engineering Student Body (AESB).

“Diversity in engineering—it’s a no-brainer,” said Dean Forouzan Golshani. “Truly this is one of the most important factors in the success of our field.”

Dean Golshani said inclusion makes everyone strong. “Engineering teams are the strongest when there’s a diversity of opinion,” he said.

The panel included current and former students of CSULB and other universities.

Sia Turay found her way into engineering when her father, an electrical engineer, urged her to at least visit the department. She chose civil engineering at CSULB and is now a project coordinator at Howard CDM.

Frankie Mendez, a transfer student and electrical engineering major from Fullerton Community College, said his father, a mechanic, told him he would have to pay for his own college education. Mendez said he decided to study engineering after watching “Ironman” in high school.

Juan Bahenia said he always had a strong aptitude for math and physics in school. But it was the hands-on nature of engineering that got his attention. “Once you get the applied product and start tinkering, that’s what gets you,” said Bahenia, an Arizona State University graduate who now works for Raytheon.

Rae Jillian Rivera, a CSULB electronics engineering technology major who is graduating this semester, said she didn’t experience diversity during her previous internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “I was the only girl. I was the only Asian. It was very intimidating,” she said.

There’s a similar lack of diversity at her current digital media internship at Walt Disney Imagineering. “Even on that team I’m the only woman, the only Asian,” said Rivera, who helps lead prosthetic maker Artemus Labs, winner of the 2018 CSULB Innovation Challenge.

Bahenia said people he met through MAES and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers led him to his current position supporting GPS and navigation systems at Raytheon Space and Aerospace Systems. “We really value diversity,” he said of Raytheon.