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Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Marieli Rubio '21

Marieli Rubio headshot

Why did you decide to attend Santa Clara University?

I decided to attend Santa Clara University because of its small classes sizes, its Jesuit values, and its location in Silicon Valley. I attended SCU’s Summer Engineering Seminar my junior year of high school and I was able to envision myself as a student on SCU’s campus right away!

Why did you choose to study Civil Engineering?

After speaking with Rudy Leon and Dr. Tonya Nilsson from the Civil Engineering Department my first-year at SCU, I decided to transfer from the School of Arts and Sciences to the School of Engineering as a Civil Engineering major. I witnessed their passion to design and build a more sustainable future and became very interested in the types of projects and courses that were offered in the department. As an engineering student, I was excited to learn more about problem-solving, work on hands-on projects that had an impact on communities, and tackle problems such as climate change and housing inequalities. My dream job has always been to work on frugal innovation projects in Latin American countries to merge my interdisciplinary interests of business and engineering.

What are you involved in at SCU?

At SCU, I am the Vice-President of the American Society of Civil Engineers and have held the position of Community Outreach Director of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. I was a LEAD Peer Mentor in the LEAD Scholars Program and also enjoy playing intramural basketball and soccer in my free time. I have worked at SCU’s Center for Sustainability and have been a research assistant for Dr. Barbara Burns in the Child Studies Department for the past 3 years. Additionally, I was able to study abroad in Cork, Ireland my junior year and have participated in the East Los Angeles immersion program. My involvement at SCU has introduced me to many of my closest friends and has significantly enriched my college experience.

What has your experience been like as a first-generation Latina in Engineering?

As a first-generation Latina in Engineering, I was constantly seeking role models, validation, and guidance within Civil Engineering to help with my discernment process. It was challenging to face microaggressions in classrooms and during my internships due to the lack of Latinx professionals in STEM. Nevertheless, it has motivated me to trailblaze for other Latinas who are interested in engineering and to provide mentorship and advice whenever I can. I have learned to be resourceful, confident, and honest after four years of my engineering education. It has instilled in me the importance of giving back to my community and increasing representation in academia and industry. 

Have you experienced any challenging times at SCU? And how did you manage your education?

Balancing a rigorous academic schedule and trying to navigate college has been incredibly challenging. I experienced high levels of confusion, frustration, stress, and imposter syndrome. As an engineering student, juggling leadership positions, social events, and taking care of mental, emotional, and physical health has been an eye-opening experience. To become more balanced, I integrated mindfulness and affirmations into my daily routine to hold myself accountable to give myself study breaks and self-validation. It has required many vulnerable conversations and lots of failure to experience the self-growth and confidence I have today. 

What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of?

As a volunteer at Third Street Community Center for the past couple of years, I co-founded the Virtual STEM for Latina Girls and represented SCU at the Young Engineers Program, which helped scale the non-profit’s efforts to serve more students. Leading these efforts helped remind SCU students to embrace the mentality of paying it forward, serving as a role model and mentoring students to help amplify opportunities for the younger generations. As a first-generation Latina STEM student myself, I have witnessed the power of programs like these in helping students work towards higher education and advocating for more diversity in the STEM workforce. 

What has contributed to your success at SCU? Any faculty/staff/mentors?

There are so many individuals who contributed to my success at SCU. My Class of 2021 Civil Engineering cohort was instrumental in working together to get through difficult courses and making labs and class projects fun. The faculty in the Civil Engineering Department was incredibly supportive during my time here as well and I am so grateful for their support and guidance. My mentors, Sean O’Keefe, Gina Amos, and Silvia Casillas helped me navigate college and encourage me to stick with it during times of self-doubt. 

What are your plans for the future?

Post-graduation, I will be relocating to San Francisco to work as a Director at a social enterprise known as Career Launch to help high school and college students find career-related jobs and internships in the hidden job market. In the near future, I hope to pursue a master's or PhD program in engineering education or learning technology. 

Do you have any advice for younger SCU Engineering students?

Remember to celebrate the small wins along the way and not allow your major or academic success define your worth. Try your best to find hobbies outside of schoolwork and take time to care for your mental health. Engineering is a demanding and challenging field, but it is very rewarding and fulfilling. Be sure to seek out mentors, professors, club organizations that will act as support networks when times are tough. Overall, just keep in mind that hard work pays off and that your engineering skills will allow you to catalyze change. 

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