Paying it forward through Trajectories Toward Graduate School event

­As a graduate student in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University, Karla Gonzalez Coronado is passionate about helping make the road to graduate school a bit smoother for her peers.

Karla Gonzalez CoronadoWhen approached by Dr. Sonia Garcia, senior director of Access and Inclusion, to be part of a minority graduate student focus group, Gonzalez Coronado was excited and ready to begin making a difference for future minority graduate students.

“This was really exciting for me because as a minority student, it is sometimes difficult to find role models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers,” Gonzalez Coronado said. “I also truly want to help first-generation college students see graduate degrees as an obtainable goal.”

The duo, along with the help of other students and faculty members, began discussing ways Texas A&M and the Texas A&M College of Engineering could help minority students successfully attend graduate school.

With the help of Garcia, and a grant specifically for pilot programs with similar goals, a committee was formed to organize Trajectories Toward Graduate School, a two-day event about graduate school at Texas A&M outlining the application process.

“The team consisted of Dr. Garcia, Dr. Michael Demkowitz, Dr. Samuel Meriwether, Juan Rodriguez, Tajuanada Montreuil, Jules Henry and myself,” Gonzalez Coronado said. “We worked for four months to organize and implement the necessary tasks to make sure the event was a success from the very beginning.”

Gonzalez Coronado initially helped with the creation of the application and goals of the program, encouraging students to apply to graduate school in the college of engineering at Texas A&M, and even posing for a few pictures for new promotional materials.

“Industrial engineering taught me to be organized and how to make sure things flowed properly and efficiently,” Gonzalez Coronado said. “These skills came into play greatly when gathering current students for the speed mentoring session during the inaugural event in November. We are really proud that we had a total of 36 prospective students participate. Twenty six were from out of state and 10 were from the Texas A&M College of Engineering.”

Karla speaking with prospective graduate studentsGonzalez Coronado also recruited current graduate students to act as mentors throughout the two-day event that hosted prospective students. The prospective students attended workshops about preparing for graduate school and funding opportunities for graduate school, as well as what steps to take next for the application process. Visiting students were also given opportunities to ask current graduate students about their experiences in the college of engineering.

“My goal for this event is that Texas A&M decides to hold it every single year so our graduate population increases with Hispanic, Native American and African American students enrolled in engineering graduate programs,” Gonzalez Coronado said.

This event is a part of the Texas A&M College of Engineering’s Access and Inclusion program, whose mission is to increase the diversity of the college by recruiting and supporting students who come from historically underrepresented population groups in Texas, or students whose backgrounds and experiences will contribute and enhance the overall diversity of the college of engineering.