Last summer, as we officially revitalized SHPE’s local chapter, our Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Oregon Professional Chapter president presented to the new members an idea. What if Oregon hosted the next Regional Leadership Development Conference for this region (Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, and California)?

Putting on a conference by anyone’s standards, is a massive, time-consuming undertaking. However, our small membership composed of mostly Intel employees was up for the challenge. We quickly saw it as an opportunity to build membership, establish our presence in the community, and of course, reach out to STEM students.

Our group partitioned the tasks at hand (career fair, housing, registration, networking activity, banquet, etc.) and leveraged our networks to present an impressive line-up of activities and workshop speakers. It was a great lesson in risk-taking. We did not have a large-event planning blueprint to follow, corporate sponsorship (at the start), and this regional conference to be held in Oregon would mean a long trip (some chapters would have to drive over 12 hours to attend – would they come?); however, we were up for the task! And what culminated was a wonderful three-day gathering of over 150+ students from 17 academic institutions.

The feedback has been overwhelming positive and the conference clearly made an impact on the students. Many are reaching out to professionals or panelist they met at the conference to thank them or to follow up on conversations they had at the conference. My peers and I have been keeping score on how many students have personally reached out to inform us they are now including Intel in their internship explorations. Without a doubt, this conference fostered connections that will enable students to be enthusiastic about their future careers in science and engineering.group-shot