City College SUBIR hosts a virtual event about women in STEM

Virtual event hosted by SUBIR, SACNAS engaged students in discussion about Chicanx and Latinx womxn in STEM

Ellen Ochoa in space

A presentation by SDSU grad Dr. Ellen Ochoa was part of a recent virtual WomXn in STEM event at City College. YouTube screenshot

Katia Pechenkina, Staff Writer

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields contribute to many of the most exciting and cutting-edge advancements humankind has ever seen.

Unfortunately, when it comes to women and minorities, they continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

Womxn in STEM, hosted virtually by the SUBIR S-Hub and SACNAS and featuring Dr. Ellen Ochoa, included a discussion about the achievements of Ochoa and women students in STEM fields.

The event on Oct. 6 included a video presentation of Ochoa speaking as part of a San Diego State University lecture series. Participating speakers shared their views and personal experiences on women’s representation in STEM fields.

Ochoa, a California native, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from SDSU and a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

At Johnson Space Center, she was the first Hispanic director and second female to take on that role. Ochoa has also become the first Hispanic woman to go to space.

Ochoa learned from her parents that education was incredibly important. Her mother had the biggest impact on her, raising children while taking one class a semester year after year.

To watch Dr. Ellen Ochoa in the SDSU President’s Lecture Series, you can click this link.

Charlene Franco, who is a Senior Project Assistant with the Title V SUBIR Grant, shared a part of her story and mentioned that no conversations about education beyond high school were discussed in her household.

“There are no conversations about credit, or things that you need in order to prepare not only your academic journey, but also your personal growth,” Franco said. 

Professor Lorenza Levy, who teaches physics and astronomy at San Diego City College, emphasized the importance of educating parents on how to support children through their academic path.

“Being a STEM student is very difficult,” Levy said.

Levy also noted how as a female, her role in the family was not to do well in school. However, she liked studying. Her parents just didn’t know how to help her.

The participants talked about the importance of mentorships. Arturo Baza, who is a peer mentor for the SUBIR’s Hub and a member of City College’s SACNAS, said that mentors can be life-changing.

Ochoa herself did not start out in the Physics Department while she was a student at SDSU, but just taking one class and talking to a professor helped her understand what she could do with a physics degree.

While speaking on family support, the participants agreed on the significance of having someone in the family who can help and give you not only emotional, but also academic support.

Linda Rodriguez, who is majoring in biology, shared how her sister, who already had college experience, helped her deal with the cultural shock during the first year.

Perseverance was an important topic of discussion.

Elisa McGann, who is majoring in astronomy at City College, pointed out that experiencing loss was what gave her inspiration and motivation to keep going.

Baza, who was a part of the original SDSU lecture series and has met Ochoa in person, shared his personal story. He wanted to become a jet fighter pilot, but due to having heart surgery, he was unable to. His dream kept him going and became his motivation, and he still made it a goal to least have a job in a related field.