Lydia Marie Smith, Contributor
In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to foster the underrepresented students in STEM fields at universities. In November, I had the honor of attending the Students of Color Conference which was hosted on the UC Berkeley campus for the first time since 2006. In addition to distinguished guest speakers and forums, the conference featured workshops on issues ranging from decreased funding for LGBT studies to incidences of hate crimes on University Campuses countrywide.
During the conference I served as a Graduate mentor to a Latino undergraduate student studying Bioengineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I answered questions that ranged from finding available scholarships and grants for Latino students to the complexities of identifying with other cultures while staying “grounded” in your own. All of his concerns mirrored the questions that I had when I first enrolled as a student at the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership. Questions that for the most part remained unanswered. While it was at times difficult for me to adjust to the social fabric of the Master of Engineering program, I learned a long time ago the importance of having mentors that I can personally identify with, and of experiencing the comfort that arises from solidarity especially during arduous times. I’m hopeful that through tiny steps such as mine own, and through larger steps like that of the University of California Student Association, we can continue to provide this precious gift for the next generation of minority engineers.