The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) was founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1974 by a group of engineers employed by the city of Los Angeles. Their objective was to form a national organization of professional engineers to serve as role models in the Hispanic community.
The concept of Networking was the key basis for the organization. SHPE quickly established two student chapters to begin the network that would grow to encompass the nation as well as reach countries outside the United States. Today, SHPE enjoys a strong but independent network of professional and student chapters throughout the nation.
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign was established during the 1985-1986 academic year by David Comparan, Carlos Martinez, and Perfecto Perales. The chapter was initiated to help and meet the needs of Hispanic students in the fields of math, science, and engineering. The founders traveled to Chicago to meet with the president of the Midwest Regional Chicago Chapter, Mike Gonzalez. The starting steps were taken and SHPE|UIUC gained recognition as a chapter by SHPE National and became a part of Region VI. The new chapter then made its way to the National Conference in Los Angeles, California, the origin of the first SHPE chapter. Since then, SHPE|UIUC has retained the same vision of bringing together underrepresented students who share the values of heritage, social responsibility, and the desire to improve the quality of all people through the use of science, math, engineering, and technology. During the 1993-1994 academic year, Ivan Favila led SHPE|UIUC to create the Engineering Open House team, High School Outreach programs, and the Freshmen Round Table. Years after, the High School Visitation, GPA (Goals + Persistence = Achievement), and Big Buddy/Little Buddy programs were started and aimed to develop the chapter‟s members.
Throughout years of dedication towards the chapter, SHPE|UIUC has been honored with awards such as the National Chapter of the Year („02-„03, „08-„09), Region VI Academic Olympiad („96-„97, „06-„09), Professional Development („97-„98), Region VI Chapter of the Year („98-„99, „02-„03, „05-„09), Academic Development („00-„01), and the Engineering Council Outstanding Society of the Year („05-„06, „07-„08). In addition, SHPE|UIUC has had a few members honored with the highest undergrad award, the SHPE Star Student Role Model of the Year. In 2002, the chapter hosted the first Region VI Midwestern Expo Conference. This event hosted 575 students and professionals combined and acquired $100,000 in funds. In 2007, under the leadership of Miguel Guerra, SHPE|UIUC began the Pre-College Conference, now the College Preparation Conference. This conference was aimed to increase the retention rate and prepare incoming underrepresented freshmen in engineering. In addition to the 2007-2008 year, the Regional Leadership Development Conference was hosted during the Spring of 2008. With professionalism growing rapidly within our society, the community outreach aspect was instilled. SHPE|UIUC became more active within the Urbana-Champaign community by increasing involvement with the F.I.R.S.T. Lego League and Proyecto C.H.E. to engage middle school students in STEM fields. High School outreach became a major focus of the chapter when the Higher Education Initiative program was established last year. This program was aimed to increase the interest in post-secondary education of minority students in the Chicago-land area during academic breaks. In addition to these great programs, SHPE|UIUC has had a strong presence at the National Conferences and has been successful in the Academic Olympiad, Technical Paper, and Poster competitions.
Recently, the SHPE|UIUC chapter developed the first ever Leadership Retreat in the Spring of 2010, held the first Noche de Ciencias programs, and laid the foundation for the Junior SHPE chapter to begin in the Fall of 2010. The society had record high numbers in membership (117), High School Visitation participants (over 50 total for Spring and Fall), and National (60) and Regional (19) attendees were accomplished this past year. Additionally, the society won Regional Chapter of the Year, Academic Olympiad Competition, Engineering Council Outstanding Community Service award, and another National Student Role Model of the Year. This year also saw the implementation of a scholarship program offering one need-based ($500) and ten merit-based ($150) scholarships for SHPE|UIUC members. Through much of SHPE|UIUC‟s effort, the Hispanic retention rate has been the highest of all ethnicities within the college of engineering for the past year and a half at 78.9% (Figure V.1). The 2009-2010 year marked its steps within SHPE|UIUC history and continued its reputation as an outstanding organization on campus, and in the nation.