The year was 1973. Rodrigo “Rod” Garcia was working as a civil engineer for the City of Los Angeles. When Rod was at work—even in the midst of a tech boom in California—he was a brown face in a sea of white. But when he drove home in the evenings or walked the streets, his city was far more colorful. LA was home to the largest Hispanic population in the country.
Rod is a man of action. He gathered a cohort of fellow Hispanic engineers who shared his concerns, and they held a meeting in his garage to determine how they could contribute to diversifying the STEM field. The group quickly charged this side project with passion. Each of them had overcome barriers to break into the engineering world. It hadn’t been easy to get where they were; statistically, it had been nearly impossible. And after finally earning their places, they were still experiencing discrimination.
So the group set to work doing what engineers do best: designing and building. They leveraged their community and political; making calls and meetings asking for support, upgrading their office from Rod’s garage to a PO Box across from City Hall, they called National Headquarters. In 1974, they officially formed the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).
What was, back then, a small group of leaders has now grown into a nationwide professional association. SHPE serves more than 11,000 members, runs 375 college and university chapters, and we’re coming up on 50 years at work. Our newsletter has also evolved slightly since the first edition...
Rod is thrilled with what his garage project has become, and he’s not the least bit surprised by SHPE’s success.
“No, I’m not surprised at all. We were engineers. We drew up the plan. This is what we dreamed of: an organization with a clear mission and a national presence. We always knew it had this kind of potential. To see it take off the way it has—it’s really special.”
— Rodrigo Garcia, SHPE Founder
As we approach our 50th anniversary, it's more important than ever to reflect back on where we came from and how we got to the place we are now as leading Hispanics in STEM. Our history is our foundation. A foundation that supports what is now an internationally known and respected organization.
To memorialize the history of our Familia, we reached out to the team at History Associates Incorporated, a professional group of researchers, storytellers, and archivists. Using a variety of tools including conducting oral histories with our founders and several lifetime members, they compiled the full history of the organization.
From SHPE's start in 1973 in Rod Garcia's garage all the way through to the history-making year that was 2020, they created this visual, animated timeline.
Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Today, SHPE makes a big impact. We’re the largest association in the nation for Hispanics in STEM. We meet each of our student and professional members where they are—offering effective training, mentorship, and programming for our vibrant community.
SHPE’s growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon. As we continue to expand our membership, programs, and partnerships, we’re guided by a clear mission, a bright vision, and the core values demonstrated by our founders.
SHPE changes lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support, and development.
SHPE’s vision is a world where Hispanics are highly valued and influential as the leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.
We take responsibility for our collective strength and passion by developing communities, building a diverse and inclusive membership, and challenging each other to be our best.
We act on a foundation of service. We commit to deliver the highest levels of quality, integrity, and ethical behavior. We act with empathy, patience, and understanding.
We value formal education and professional development. We are dedicated to continuous improvement and renewal. We learn from successes, setbacks, and each other.
We embrace our diverse cultures and communities, which enable us to adapt, thrive, and persist with optimism.
SHPE supports our members through high school, college, graduate and doctorate programs, and throughout their professional careers. In high school, students are introduced to the world of STEM at our events and through mentorship and scholarship opportunities.
Then, college students can get involved with their schools’ chapters—or start their own! Young professional members receive countless opportunities to grow, and seasoned innovators in the field mentor and give back. We view each of our members as a potential leader and a forever-member of our Familia.