Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas (far right) with members of UCSB’s Los Ingenieros chapter

The UCSB Los Ingenieros chapter, a student group of two professional organizations, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES), received the honor of hosting 2011’s Leadership Development Conference and banquet the first weekend of April. They welcomed fellow regional Los Ingenieros campuses as well as keynote speaker and Los Angeles City Councilmember Tony Cardenas. The theme of the weekend-long event was “The Leader Within,” celebrating those who go above and beyond to promote their chapters both on campus and in their communities.

The weekend included a series of team-building motivational workshops (created for both graduate and undergraduate students) and culminated in a banquet dinner. Each block of workshops was geared toward creating a successful Latino working community for the future. Seminar titles included “Fundraising and Proposal Writing” and “Acing Interviews.” There was even a “NASA Awareness” class organized by NASA, one of sponsors of the conference.

Business professionals and professors oversaw each event and mentored students during workshop exercises. Los Ingenieros member and first-year chemical engineering major Michelle Lopez was both excited and challenged by some of the weekend’s events, including a competition in which the students were grouped and told to create a business plan in a day.

“We had to design an event to entice others to join the engineering, science, and math programs,” said Lopez. “Our group planned a three-day sleep away camp on campus where we’d have students shadow the undergrads and go to classes with them and host workshops. On the third day their parents would come for a kind of show-and-tell of everything they did.”

The highlight of the conference was undoubtedly the Leadership Banquet, which took place on Saturday at the Corwin Pavilion on campus. L.A. city councilmember and UCSB alumnus Tony Cardenas was the first Latino ever in San Fernando Valley history to be elected to state council in 1996, beginning his now three-term career. Prior to the banquet, Cardenas spoke intimately with a few small groups of students.

“The main priority now for the Hispanic community is education. Legislation, however, is still very far behind and it’s even harder for students to be admitted to universities. When it comes to the houses of power, we’re still not there yet, which is why it is up to you all to become voters and to make changes in your community,” said Cardenas.

When the banquet began later that evening, Cardenas commenced by asking all students who were first-generation college attendees to stand. An impressive majority were out of their seats. Cardenas retraced the steps of his political career and recounted his childhood growing up in Pacoima, CA. He spoke about how he was never valedictorian at his high school — rather, he was a self-proclaimed “average student” who made good on his promise of representing and giving back to his community.

In the spirit of the “Leader Within” theme of the weekend, Cardenas concluded on a compelling and motivating note to the audience. “You who stood up at the beginning, you’re breaking down barriers, but that’s not enough. It’s not what degree you get that matters — what motivates you to do something good with it? You’re living the dreams of hundreds of years of people that raised you. I’m here to tell you how special you are,” said Cardenas.

Cardenas received a standing ovation from the audience, including Los Ingenieros co-president and fourth year mathematical science major Enrique Guzman, which truly took the message and personal stories to heart.

He said, “There were quite a few times when he had the audience on the brink of tears. [Cardenas] said that as Hispanics, we need to move beyond our comfort zone and be proud of who we are and where we were born.”


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