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Hispanic Heritage Month: ASU Latino and Hispanic students seek to impact society with their careers

ASU Latino and Hispanic club leaders share how they plan to give back and positively impact their communities through their career path


Hispanic and Latino ASU students discuss how they plan to give back to the community with their professional careers.

Sergio López, Pablo Casanova and Marisol Ortega are three ASU students studying different professions but with a common purpose: they’re all presidents of clubs with utmost importance to Hispanic and Latino students at ASU.

López was born in the United States but grew up in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He’s in his final year of his mechanical engineering program and is the president of ASU's Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

SHPE is dedicated to helping Hispanic students reach their full potential through the development of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“Not only do we help them excel in school, but also in their professional fields,” López said.

López believes that there is a disparity in the STEM professional field, which he seeks to reduce by preparing students with all the necessary resources, such as professional tutoring and networking events so that they can expand their knowledge. In this way, he hopes to demonstrate to companies the importance of diversifying the workforce.

“All the companies that have hired the club's engineering students have come back the following year wanting to hire more,” he said. "That is our goal at the end of the day." 

As president of his club, López is committed to emphasizing skills that play a fundamental role in the lives of students, such as issues related to taxes, credit benefits, and bank cards, among many others.

“For people who already know, it may seem very simple,” López said. "But we have people with different levels of learning."

He added that some of the money SHPE earns from sponsorships is used to sponsor students at national conventions, buy flight tickets, buy job fair tickets, and if possible, also lodging.

His goal in the club is to be able to establish SHPE as one of the best Hispanic clubs at ASU so that newly admitted students have a broad knowledge of all the benefits the club offers and the support that exists among the members of the club with experts in the specialty.

“I like to help them with the most important tools for their profession,” he said. "That way people can end this year more prepared."

Like López, Pablo Casanova is another young leader of his organization that promotes the integration of Hispanic students for better representation in society.

Casanova, at age 20, is president of ASU's Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), a club created by Latino professionals with the goal of expanding student leadership in the global workforce.

The magnitude of agreements that ALPFA has with companies, resources and mentors is inexplicable, Casanova said. He added that he seeks to guide and show the right path to all members of the club, based on participation and team collaboration.

“I was immediately made aware of the resources the club offered and it almost immediately had an impact on my life,” Casanova said. “What I have achieved, everyone can do. It's a matter of having confidence in yourself and not letting anything stand in your way."

He also highlighted the primary focus of the club towards Hispanic students in being able to face conformism and be able to execute higher goals. Casanova feels fortunate to have a valuable scholarship to help pay for his studies at ASU. However, he is aware that not all students have the same benefit.

“In a not too distant future I would like to help Hispanic families understand finances, as it can sometimes be difficult to understand,” said Casanova. “From a very early age it is very important to instill that value in children.”

Until now, Casanova has managed to arrange different internships with prestigious companies that have contributed a lot to his knowledge. Among them are PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and The Vanguard Group, Inc. All this was possible thanks to the connections he made in the club, according to him.

"You should never stop learning," he said. "I want people to see me as an example to follow and as a source of inspiration."

The impact of young leaders in society is the mentality for building a better world, the ability to see the world in a different way according to their ideas and perceptions, according to Casanova. “We are the only ones who are going to worry about our future,” he said. "We have more focus on equity, economic equality, gender equality, environmental issues and finances."

Alan Quezada, president of finances for ALPFA at ASU, works closely with Casanova with the same goal and said that the main reason for joining ALPFA was knowing that it is a club of leading Latinos where generosity prevails.

Quezada highlights the importance of the solidarity that exists in the club, the willingness that each one has with the other to be able to help each other and encourage this new generation to build a better world.

“I only help you because you are my friend, because you are my brother,” Quezada said.

Both agreed that there is an existing perception that there are not enough Latinos with important professional positions in the U.S.

“When you enter business school and start to see who the executives are, those who are at the forefront; it's very rare to see Hispanics there,” Casanova said.

In the fall of 2021, only 3,622 Latino/Hispanic students were enrolled in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, according to documents provided by the University. Latino students represented 19.7% of the number of students enrolled at W. P. Carey. However, this number has been increasing, compared with the 2,324 Latino and Hispanic students who enrolled in the fall of 2016.

Casanova added that the simple fact of finding more Hispanic people in the business world with the ambition to excel, is motivation enough to want to do more. He also said that the best way for young leaders to make an impact in society is by connecting them with professionals in their field of work and having a network where they can find those opportunities in society.

"The role of young people in society is to empower others, not only get ahead themselves, but also share and spread that success to others," Casanova said.

ASU's ALPFA is constantly working to create more opportunities and add value to Latino professionals for a change in society. Although it is true that the organization was initially created with a focus on the field of finance, currently, both Casanova and Quezada highlight the expansion of the club to the general field of business and the welcome of all those who study.

On the other hand, Marisol Ortega, a senior studying public relations, is the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ-ASU).

Ortega said that being a journalist regardless of race or nationality implies wanting to make a change in the community. However, being a journalist of Latino/Hispanic origin carries more responsibility in your community and great influence.

“We have to make sure that the representation on Spanish-language television is good and that the stories that are told are accurate,” Ortega said.

Ortega's perception of the students is that they all decide to join the club with the same purpose of making a positive change in society. “We have the ability to speak Spanish and reach out to our community by informing them about immigration issues, for example,” she said.

She also said that NAHJ-ASU primarily helps students with orientation to their career or general college environment. Especially when the student comes from a family that has not had the opportunity to develop a professional career that can serve as a source of information.

Ortega's parents were first-generation Americans who attended college. She is proud that her parents graduated from ASU, although she understands that not all students have that advantage.

“A lot of the time, those skills that we need are not taught to us, especially when we come from a community where many people did not go to college or have no experience in that professional world,” Ortega said.

Compared to other communities, Ortega thinks the Latino community faces a system not designed for it even worse because it is still relatively new to the U.S., and that Latinos have not had the opportunity to have generations of Latinos in the U.S. who can encourage them.

“That's why I think it's important for Latinos to be in the media because that representation is important and is essential to normalize the Latino experience here in the United States,” she said.

One important aspect that surprises Ortega is the lack of Hispanic students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, ASU's journalism school, since Arizona is a state with a large Hispanic population.

“My goal is to hopefully change that and turn it into something more, not a social club, but a place where people can find social support and find a community that helps make each other better,” Ortega said.

SHPE ASU, ALPFA ASU and NAHJ-ASU are three organizations with different goals but with the same purpose of wanting to promote the Hispanic student community to professional improvement through the necessary resources that allow access to a valuable job and the ability to leave an imprint on society.

Translated by Yamileth Cabrera.

Edited by Greta Forslund and Brenda Muñoz Murguia.

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