Resurgent Spirit

Detroit, Michigan has long been known as the foundation of the automotive industry and has an extensive and storied history beginning in the 1890s with the innovation of the automobile. Recent economic challenges and strong foreign products have left the North American automotive companies struggling to stay competitive, however through difficult decisions the image is changing for the industry and for Detroit. The resurgent spirit of the automotive industry with new innovations and more efficient portfolios has led the way for several major companies to move or establish new operations in Southeast Michigan. The city is once again becoming a leader in the global economy making this area an important engineering and science resource. Detroit is also known as a very diverse community with an increasing Hispanic population. These coupled aspects have been a leading driver in the revitalization of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers---Detroit Professional Chapter (SHPE-Detroit).

In 2011, the awareness of this situation and the sense of commitment and responsibility led a group of local professionals to begin the process to revitalize the Detroit-area professional organization. With the help and support of the National non-profit organization of SHPE, this has become a reality. The vision of SHPE is to support the Hispanic community by promoting Latinos as valued and influential leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians and engineers. Professional development, leadership growth and community service are some of the key pillars of SHPE.

The National SHPE organization was founded in 1974 and currently has over 300 Student (Undergraduate and Graduate) and Professional chapters with more than 10,000 members across the nation. It also has over 40 Junior (High School and Middle School) chapters. The SHPE mission statement emphasizes the organization’s dedication to Changing Lives by empowering the Hispanic community. National programs and activities include: SHPE National Conference, National Institute for Leadership Advancement, Management Growth Training and the SHPE Foundation which provides scholarship funds and educational support in an effort to develop our future leaders.

The efforts to revitalize SHPE-Detroit have led to an exciting 2012. After nearly 3 years of inactivity, the chapter now has over 25 active members of diverse professional backgrounds representing a cross-section of Fortune 500 companies including General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

In the summer of 2012 a newly elected Executive Board was established to lead the chapter: President, Mauricio Pincheira, Paint Area Manager, General Motors;VP External, Jessica Moreno, Engineering Business Manager, General Motors;VP Internal, Hector Romo, Analysis and Verification Engineer, General Motors; Treasurer, Cammy Wong, Supply Chain Engineer, General Motors; and Secretary, Andrea Hidalgo, Engine Calibration Specialist, General Motors.

The challenge facing SHPE today is the emerging shortage of technical talent in the United States. Currently, the US has fewer graduates in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields compared to other countries. If this trend continues, the US will fall short of producing technical innovators needed to lead our nation. The awareness of this issue and the sense of commitment and responsibility were key motivators in revitalizing SHPE-Detroit. Our goal is to meet the demands for technical professionals by mentoring, developing and supporting the local Hispanic population and providing awareness for the opportunities in the STEM fields.

The SHPE-Detroit Mission statement reads: “Changing lives in Detroit by inspiring and motivating young Hispanic students to achieve technical academic excellence and community presence; as well as to enhance career opportunities for Hispanics by providing professional development and a strong professional network.”

True to the mission statement, the chapter has taken measures to develop relationships with the local SHPE University Chapters including the University of Michigan and Kettering University. These relationships have been further enhanced through collaborative work supporting the Detroit-area high schools. In October, SHPE-Detroit along with the SHPE Chapter of the University of Michigan will host a Noche de Ciencias (Family Science Night) event at Western International High School located in the predominately Hispanic community of Southwest Detroit. This is a SHPE National sponsored event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. This event is designed to expose both parents and students to the opportunities in the STEM fields through hands-on activities for the students and workshops on college preparedness and financial aid opportunities for the parents and teachers.

In an effort to support and grow the SHPE-Detroit professional membership, the chapter has also made great strides in developing relationships with other professional organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and has organized Professional Development events and networking opportunities. SHPE-Detroit strives to provide the opportunity for professional members to find greater success in their careers and to contribute to the local Hispanic community

Changing Lives is a key vision of SHPE National and has become the basis for the mission of SHPE-Detroit. As members of this professional community, SHPE-Detroit is poised and ready to lead the way to ensure that Hispanics continue to grow in Detroit and demonstrate leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These advancements will in turn improve our community, quality of life, educational opportunities for the future generation and the technical competitiveness of this country. SHPE-Detroit strives to Change Lives!

Mauricio Pincheira is the Paint Area Manager, General Motors.