The aroma of Hispanic foods consumed the air as student mariachi musicians and Mexican folk dancers performed on campus Friday evening.
During the Latinx-Hispanic Heritage Festival, Gillian Hagamen, mechanical engineering student program coordinator, said about 100 engineering and natural science students interacted with and learned about Hispanic culture. The Cockrell School of Engineering partnered with the College of Natural Sciences to host the festival at the Engineering Education and Research Center.
“The event celebrates students, faculty and staff within Cockrell and CNS who identify as Hispanic or Latinx,” Hagamen said. “Students benefit from cultural awareness events by learning what different cultures can bring to the table when solving problems in the fields of science and engineering.”
Biology sophomore Ariah Quinonez said Hispanic celebratory events are important, because they allow students to feel included.
“Sometimes it feels like we aren’t specifically promoted and embraced with other races,” Quinonez said. “Events like this let students understand that although we may not see a lot of Hispanics in our classes, there’s a bunch of Hispanics at UT, and we just have to find each other.”Want more content like this in your inbox every morning?
Math and economics sophomore Ximena Mercado Garcia said she was a student coordinator for the festival, and that it was an honor to plan an event empowering Hispanic students like herself.
“It’s important for students to know they have a familia on campus,” Mercado Garcia said. “Sometimes programs will only promote diversity and not inclusion. With this festival, we wanted to show inclusivity instead of simply saying we want diversity. Actions are more impactful than words.”
Civil engineering junior Yecenia Huerta said she worked alongside Quinonez to organize the festival. She said she wanted students to feel recognized for their culture.
“(As a Hispanic), you walk into an engineering room and most people don’t have your skin color or speak your native language,” Huerta said. “This event is inspiring to students who feel they can’t relate to their classmates.”
Enrique Dominguez, director of Cockrell’s Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program, said more cultural celebrations are being planned. He said future events will include an Asian American and Pacific Islander event, an LGBTQIA+ event and a Black excellence in STEM event.
“We hope students benefit from these events by finding other students who are like them,” Dominguez said. “We’re expected to just be an engineer or just be a scientist, but in the real world, we are multiple identities.”