Luz Reyes-Martin, Director of Communications
On October 27 and 28, four hand-picked engineering and computer science students from Santa Barbara City College attended the invitation-only MESA Student Leadership Conference in Los Angeles. Held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where this year’s theme was Illuminate. Motivate. Launch., students had the opportunity to interact one-on-one and in small groups with executives from such companies as Disney, Wells Fargo, AT&T and Applied Materials.
The California Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program is a statewide program whose purpose is to guide diverse students from underrepresented backgrounds into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. “The goal of the annual conference is to strengthen students’ soft skills via the mock interview, workshops, social media, and networking,” said Virginia Estrella, SBCC’s MESA Director/Coordinator. “The speakers are usually former MESA alumni that come back to inspire the students and give them a ‘you can do it’ talk.”
Hearing the stories of professionals in the field prompted SBCC mechanical engineering major William Gonzalez to reflect, “I’m a first generation Mexican-American; I am the first and only member of my family that will have ever attended college. I am passionate about pursuing a profession in the STEM field, so meeting professionals who come from a background similar to mine is life-changing; it gives me confidence and inspiration towards my goals.”
Recalling the highlights of the conference, chemical engineering major Robert Williams reported, “The mock interview was amazing because I was able to get the full professional experience of going to an engineering job interview which will be extremely valuable in the future.”
Both students and companies benefit from the conference: students network and gain the skills needed to be well-rounded employees, while companies gain access to talented, diverse candidates for internships and employment. These enlightened corporate partners understand our MESA students have not been simply underserved and underrepresented, they are an underutilized pool of talent that has been long overlooked and one which they cannot afford to ignore.
“MESA's reach is farther than just SBCC, since it is a statewide effort,” explained Virginia Estrella. In fact, MESA’s influence extends beyond even the students themselves. “Attending the conference made me remember why I chose engineering,” said SBCC computer engineering major Fernando Estevez. “I was reminded of my end goal of how I want my parents to stop working and give them the rest they deserve. I also want to provide some sort of engineering academy at my local high school,” he continued, “I was very fortunate to have a great engineering instructor who pushed me to pursue a career in engineering.”
Pictured, from left to right: Robert Williams, William Gonzalez, Virginia Estrella,
Almendra Valenzuela Aparicio,
Fernando Estevez, and Disney executives Nancy Faginas-Cody and Steve Garetto-Barnett.