The Story of SHPE
Supporting Hispanics in STEM for nearly 50 years
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 13,000 members, runs 280+ college and university chapters, and we’re coming up on 50 years at work.
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