Shaping a More Innovative and Creative Workforce
By Tracy Seipel
Career Center honors 10 award winners at Diversity Works Expo.
When Zia Malangalila ’25 accepts a $1,000 winner’s certificate next week at Santa Clara’s 6th Annual Diversity Works Expo & Awards, she will do so proudly on behalf of SCU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.
As the group’s finance chair, she knows that money will come in handy, helping to defray some of their costs at the annual NSBE convention, happening next month in Kansas City.
More importantly, Malangalila knows the award is a powerful acknowledgement that the chapter's members are actively fulfilling their mission on campus. That is, increasing the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
“Our experiences make us who we are, how we think and process things,” says the electrical engineering major from Austin who one day hopes to design consumer products.
“People with different backgrounds will approach a problem differently,” explains Malangalila, whose father was born in Tanzania. “But if I’m in a room full of Zias, we’re all going to think the same, we’re all going to solve this one problem in a certain way.”
By ensuring diverse teams, “you invite novel approaches, especially in engineering, that can make a better product—and a better engineer. It’s more holistic.”
That’s the kind of strategic thinking employers are looking for, says Chris Harris, assistant director for career development at SCU’s Career Center, which is hosting the networking event Wednesday afternoon at the Locatelli Center.
As Jeff Miller ’73, board member of event co-sponsor ServiceNow, and namesake of SCU’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, says: “Diversity of thought is what drives innovation, creativity, and frankly solves problems quicker and faster.”
The event brings together students, employers, industry experts, staff, and faculty in a celebration of diversity in the workplace. Wednesday’s program will highlight a total of $10,000 in awards ($1,000 each for five student winners and $1,000 for each of five student organization winners). An industry panel and roundtable discussions to facilitate authentic conversations about "Bringing Your Whole Self to Work" also are planned.
This year’s Expo attracted 82 students, and 19 student groups submissions—a record number for both categories, according to Harris, and likely due to the jump in prize money, a four-fold increase from prior years.
“That alone was a big draw," he says of the hefty donations from event co-sponsors ServiceNow and Enterprise Rent-a-Car. But effective marketing and promotion was another.
“We relied on campus partners to spread the word to their respective populations, an example being nominations by staff and faculty,” explains Harris. “These diversity champions are really engaged in this event."
In a creative twist, the event will feature a “reverse career fair,” in which representatives of almost two dozen employers, from NASA to Target, Bain & Company to E. & J. Gallo Winery, will do the reverse of a traditional career fair: instead of students walking up to them, employers will approach the students or student organizations that are showcasing their skills.
"Helping our communities"
Along with the five student organizations, employers will have a chance to talk to the five student winners, including Toni Leto ’25, a member of the LGBTQ+ community who is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in LGBTQ+ affirmative therapy.
Santa Clara’s commitment to social justice and diversity aligns with Leto’s passion for the same values, and their own mission to become a therapist focused on improving mental health access for trans and queer individuals.
“I’m interested in the ways that systems work in general, and the ways that we, as advocates and activists, can work to navigate these systems to help our communities,” the graduate student says.
When Leto envisions an employer, what comes to mind is the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center in San Jose that “directly serves our population,” Leto says. Another possibility would be the Pride Center in the Peninsula.
“Trans people are often discriminated against in terms of finding access to jobs and housing,” Leto says. “We know that already from the data. Even if there are laws to protect us, they don’t always.”
Leto is looking forward to the event and meeting possible employers. "I think it will help me with networking, as well as employer perspectives on what DEI looks like, how it can be effectively implemented, and how we continue to improve it."
2023 DIVERSITY WORKS EXPO AWARD WINNERS:
Iris Do ’25
Lauren Hu ’26
Toni Leto ’25
Jocelyn Madrigal ’26
Jaylinn Solis ’23
SCU STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS
Chinese Student Association
National Society of Black Engineers
SCU Women in Business
Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers
Feb 17, 2023
Electrical engineering major Zia Malangalila '25. Photos by Jim Gensheimer.