This year’s convention was a wild success, with the largest-ever participation and attendance; and once it finished, I took what felt like a well-earned vacation starting with 48 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
But as happens when you care about something so deeply, I soon found myself thinking about my SHPE familia.
I was in my car, with my 125-pound Great Dane puppy, Owen, driving south from my home in D.C. to Tennessee. Outside my window was ridge after ridge of wooded forest, those ancient Smoky Mountains so rich in life they have been compared to the tropics. It was beautiful in a way that’s hard to describe, but as the miles peeled away, I found myself thinking about another journey entirely.
When I joined SHPE a year and a half ago, I was (and remain) committed to transforming the world for Latinos, but too often I had to make my point with percentages.
Hispanics are underrepresented in STEM, the argument went (and still goes). The instances where we are hired, we are not necessarily meaningfully included or promoted to leadership positions. To a large degree this is still true. The data backs it up.
But, while traveling this November, post-Convention, I felt a shift inside of me. As a Latina who has herself faced bias as a CEO this incremental pace of progress is not fast enough. We need to demand more rapid and positive results. We need to demand and insist on transformation.
This is a favorite topic of mine, transformation, and it’s important that we distinguish between transformation and its close cousin, change.
Change, as I see it, is inevitable. It is near-certain that Latinos will be a larger and larger percentage of our population, even the largest slice of the America pie; but it is hardly guaranteed that our booming demographic will be adequately represented in STEM jobs, as well as other centers of power and influence including but not limited to government, academia, the military and philanthropy.
Surrounded by amazing people at SHPE, we’ve experienced the beginnings of transformation—many of us personally. Following our recent convention, more students walked away with jobs and internships than ever before, and more companies left with highly talented, qualified employees than any other year.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, 3M, John Deere, General Motors, Eaton, IBM—these are just a few corporations for which SHPE is now an essential and very grateful partner.
Yet as Latinos, we have so much more to offer than hireability, which is really only the first step in many of our personal-professional journeys.
As the American spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson puts it, “Personal transformation does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world.”
In other words, as we Latinos seek better circumstances for ourselves, our families and our community, the future of everyone—not just Latinos—will improve. This is why we must pay so much attention to our personal journeys, and it is why transformation will be a focus of the 2019 convention, as well as NILA and our regional conferences.
So it was a productive vacation I had, driving from D.C. to Pigeon Forge; and from there to New Orleans to Houston, Texas, to spend time with my parents and sisters.
Truth be told, even though, technically I was on vacation, SHPE was/is always top of mind for me. The way I see it, SHPE never goes on vacation. And transformation—well, it never gets put on pause. So I encourage each of you to make a conscious choice to be your best self always by engaging in continuous exploration and learning as you navigate your personal and professional journey of transformation.
Here’s wishing you and yours, a joyful holiday season.