With encouragement from a New Mexico Tech professor and financial assistance from a scholarship specifically targeted toward Hispanic females in engineering, a senior chemical engineering major has forged connections during her college career helping her succeed as she aims for graduate school.
Diana Alvarado, a first-generation college student from Clovis, New Mexico, is the recipient of the E. Eugene Carter Opportunity Scholarship.
Funded by the EEC Foundation of Arlington, Massachusetts, the E. Eugene Carter Opportunity Scholarship repays recipients’ federal student loans, making a college education possible for Hispanic female engineering majors who may otherwise be unable to afford it.
As a student at Clovis High School, Alvarado excelled in chemistry and math, but didn’t have access to engineering courses or clubs and didn’t know “how to actually go to college.”
“Both of my parents are immigrants from Mexico – they came here for more opportunities,” she said. “I knew that getting a higher education would help me have a better life. My parents were very happy I was pursuing engineering because they knew it would open a lot of doors.”
New Mexico Tech was intimidating for her at first, so Alvarado joined the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE) Club, the Society of Women Engineers, and became active in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. She credits the connections made on campus, including the older students who mentored her, for providing an extra support system looking out for her over her academic career.
“Thankfully the Chemical Engineering Department is very tight knit,” she said. “As soon as I joined clubs, I got to know other students and found my people.”
NMT Dean of Engineering Corey Leclerc reached out to Alvarado and encouraged her to apply for the Carter Opportunity Scholarship her sophomore year. The financial support allowed Alvarado to give up a 20-hour per week job she had her freshman year so she could focus on homework.
“Once I got the scholarship, it was honestly a really big relief off my shoulders,” she said.
After graduation in May, Alvarado will pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, focusing on renewable energy, an interest sparked from internships at the New Mexico Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, West Virginia.
“I will say there have been ups and downs, but so far it’s an experience I wouldn’t replace, because I’ve made so many friends for life, learned so much, and gotten so many opportunities that me, back in high school, would have never imagined being able to do,” she said.