Garcia delivers keynote address at NAMEPA conference

Dr. Sonia Garcia, senior director of the Access and Inclusion Program within the Texas A&M University College of Engineering, was a keynote speaker at the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates (NAMEPA) conference held last month at Purdue University. Garcia serves as Thought Leader for College Readiness on the NAMEPA board of directors.

“It was such a great honor to be asked to give a closing keynote at the national level, to represent the college of engineering and to highlight the diversity efforts that we have achieved so far and the goals we are striving to reach,” Garcia said.

Garcia Headshot

Virginia Womack, president of NAMEPA, said Garcia represents the heartbeat of what NAMEPA is about — passionate academic leaders who stand in the gap of student access and success in engineering and STEM fields.

As senior director of the Access and Inclusion program Garcia works to recruit and retain underrepresented students in engineering. From high school students through graduate students, Garcia leads efforts to promote engagement and community among future engineers.

During her speech, Garcia said she is frequently asked why it is essential for programs like Access and Inclusion to exist. She cited statistics — that 62 percent of scientists and engineers in the United States are Caucasian, that one in 10 STEM professionals is a female from a minority group and that African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans remain among the most underrepresented minority groups in engineering-related fields at the undergraduate, master and doctorate levels.

“Our dean’s 25 by 25 initiative addresses the critical and growing demand for more engineers,” she said.

Texas A&M Engineering’s 25 by 25 initiative is a transformational education program designed to increase access for qualified students to pursue engineering education at Texas A&M and increase total enrollment to 25,000 students by 2025.

“If we take a look at Texas as an example, the Texas Workforce Commissioner’s report projects a 19 percent engineering job growth in Texas from 2012 to 2022, which equates to about 43,000 new jobs,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the leadership at the college of engineering believes success can only be achieved through inclusion.

“Thus, the creation and development of various programs such as my position in Access and Inclusion, Women in Engineering, and programs geared toward increasing retention, work toward the fulfillment of the 25 by 25 initiative,” she said. 

 Garcia urged the audience to continue pushing the envelope.

“We need to keep injecting innovative elements to our programs,” she said. “We must continue the outreach, recruitment and retention. We must continue partnering and collaborating with other like-minded organizations. We need to keep sharing our contributions, the programs we are developing or have developed and, most important, we must keep the passion and the love for what we do to build our future and the future of others.”

Womack said Garcia’s speech highlighted the metric results of work diversity program directors do at Texas A&M and other universities that use research-driven strategies for student success.

“The importance of this work is illustrated by the results produced because of it,” Womack said. “It is critical that we intentionally raise the profile of this work, document and publish proven best practices and provide support and funding to make these opportunities available to a broader base of students.”

For more information about the Access and Inclusion Program, visit the program’s website.