CHAVEZ_CAMERONWritten by: Claudia Chavez

During the fall of 2013, I finally recognized the necessity to attend the University of Arkansas’ STEM Career Fair. Yes, I was extremely nervous to have conversations with individuals that could determine where I would find myself the following summer or perhaps the next few years of my life. I had only been in engineering one year due to my change in major from psychology, and I had only taken basic courses such as Calculus, Physics and other introductory classes.

Even when I considered my Industrial Engineering Scholarship, my participation in the Career Development Center’s Professional Development Program, and my service as a student ambassador for the Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education, a part of me still felt that the resume I held tightly inside my pad folio was not prepared to go out into the real world. But despite the nerves and the ambiguity, I gathered a great sense of determination and attended the conference.

Once the day was over, I was surprised and excited to receive numerous calls from various recruiters requesting an interview including John Deere, Cameron International, Logistics Engineering with Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kiewit, and General Cable. Eventually, I accepted a summer internship offer with Cameron International for their Quality department in Ville Platte, Louisiana.

As a result of my success at the STEM fair, my increased confidence became my fuel as I attended the national conference for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) the following month. A 10 hour road trip to Indianapolis, Indiana included great laughs with fantastic engineers, inspirational presentations, and of course, outstanding opportunities for attending one of the largest Hispanic career fairs with global and domestic companies.

Much to my delight, and not long after my interviews with General Motors and Toyota, I received a spring semester co-op offer letter for the logistics department of Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Texas in San Antonio. Once again, I was impressed by the opportunities afforded to me as a student at the University of Arkansas.

Although I was excited about the internship offer, I had a great sense of uncertainty leaving school and delaying my graduation date. Through careful guidance from the Industrial Engineering departmental professors and my mentors, I was advised that the best way to learn was through experience and stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I was the farthest away from home I had ever been for the eight months of internships, and I had incredible adventures that allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. For example, I gave a final presentation to a Toyota plant Japanese adviser and learned how to crab in the southern bayous of Louisiana.

My appreciation for the opportunity SHPE had afforded me, inspired me to run and be selected as the Vice President for this academic year. In addition, I will be initiated into the Industrial Engineering Honor society Alpha Pi Mu next month and continue working with the Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education by programming events that will academically support underrepresented students.

My most recent milestone, receiving the Latino Alumni Scholarship, encourages me to continue my education and acknowledge the remarkable support I have always received from the University of Arkansas. Not only have I found a place to call home and met influential people, I have also been equipped with the appropriate tools to succeed.  The resources I found within our campus have reassured me that I made the correct decision by attending the University of Arkansas, and with the support the Alumni Association is providing me, I feel an entire community cheering for my success.