Garcia was born in Ecuador but moved to the United States when she was 3 years old. In Miami, Garcia felt comfortable because her friends and neighbors came from diverse backgrounds and spoke Spanish and other languages. When Garcia attended college on the west coast of Florida ― where they earned a degree in biomedical engineering ― things changed.
“It really opened my eyes. I knew what it was like not to be like other people. I wanted my Latin music, my Pollo Tropical,” Garcia said with a laugh.
Currently, four undergraduate students from the College of Engineering are JEDI Ambassadors – Garcia, Estefania Victorero, Fabio Macias and Malak Elaouinate. The team of mentors includes: Bailey Bond, Ph.D. SUCCEED student; Andrew Green, Associate Director of the Center for Diversity and Student Success (CD-SSEC); Sacha Perez, advisor to the College of Engineering & Computing; Julie Vallejos, Senior Program Coordinator, CD-SSEC; Andres Tremante, director of CD-SSEC; and Seculars.
“Several students applied for the positions, but the ambassadors we chose really care about making a difference and making the world a better place,” Secules said. “Linking research to advocacy and change is an important part of the JEDI program.”
Seed funding from Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, and the National Science Foundation Center for Engineering Research Focused on Cellular Materials (CELL MET) got the program off the ground, and the JEDI program plans to grow to 10 or more Ambassadors over the course of of the next few years.
JEDI students are engaged in two ongoing research projects: one study examines the experience of women and LGBTQ students in college, while another study examines the presence of “weeding” courses in college courses. introduction to STEM and how a classroom culture can influence perception.
The K-12 outreach program, designed to introduce young people to engineering and STEM careers, includes the field day experience the group hopes to offer soon at select area schools. Another outreach project is creating an inclusive culture and raising awareness of JEDI issues on campus, including bulletin boards for Black History Month and Women’s History Month, featuring black people and women, respectively, who have played an important role in STEM. The four ambassadors work in several teams.
For Garcia, being an ambassador means more than just gaining research experience or creating short-term change. “I am now thinking about my future as it relates to engineering, diversity and inclusion,” they said. “FIU allowed me to get started in the industry, particularly in the context of work-study and internships. But now that I’m learning more from JEDI, I think my future might include working a few years as an engineer and then moving into HR to recruit more diverse engineers or even earning a PhD. in engineering training. »
Secules said the potential for expanding the program beyond the College of Engineering & Computing is bright.
“I can definitely see the program working on the main campus,” he said. “It’s a mechanism to increase agency and student empowerment that will result in real change.”