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ECE Involved: Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at Ohio State

With broad educational opportunities and diversity innately tied to The Ohio State University's Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program, students are making a difference in numerous university organizations. The "ECE Involved" story series explores some exceptional students in the department, who are continually finding new ways to match their drive for community outreach with STEM academics.

Transforming the way a child sees the world had a lasting impact on Paloma Cooper as an engineering student at The Ohio State University.

While speaking to a class of youngsters during a STEM Challenge event last year, Cooper said a boy complained his mother forced him to attend. 

When her talk was over, however, she truly understood why outreach is so important. It opens up children's minds about their potential. 

“By the end of the event (the boy) wanted to be an engineer,” Cooper said. “Moments like that really make it exciting to be part of a group like SHPE.”

Perhaps she could connect because she could relate. 

Cooper said discovering the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at Ohio State, or SHPE, was similarly empowering for her. So empowering, in fact, she got more involved and  serves as its current treasurer. 

Cooper makes sure SHPE can afford to participate in events, socials and outreach programs every year to help foster the family-like bond its members share. Another goal is to keep raising awareness to underrepresented students and local communities about the benefits of careers in STEM. 

As a third-year ECE student, Cooper knows simply fitting in can be a challenge. 

“Being one of the only black and/or Hispanic students, and sometimes the only girl, in your engineering classes can be kind of difficult,” she said. “Being part of a group whose mission is to increase the number of successful minorities is great.”

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at The Ohio State University

SHPE President, Estefania Fernandez, a fourth-year ECE student, said Cooper always keeps the budget balanced, but her role in the chapter is more than just crunching numbers.  

“She’s very organized and detailed, and this has helped her accomplish her goals as treasurer,” Fernandez said. “Paloma’s most important strength [though] is her drive toward helping SHPE members succeed academically.” 

After graduation, Cooper plans to work for an ECE-related company to gain experience, but plans to return to school to achieve her long term goal of receiving her PhD and becoming a research professor.

For now, SHPE continues to teach her the skills to make her plans a reality.

“(It) taught me how to properly network and how to seek great opportunities to ensure success,” Cooper said. “I do not think I would be where I am today without participating.” 

Article by ECE Student PR Writer, Lydia Freudenberg