On Tuesday, May 21, ME student Gracielita Mendoza-Beginez took to the podium as the student speaker for the Berkeley Engineering undergraduate commencement ceremony. Mendoza-Beginez shared her own experience as a first-generation, low-income Latina engineering student and encouraged her fellow graduates to address the lack of diversity in engineering.
“Representation in STEM matters, and we have to do a better job at exposing people of color to STEM fields earlier in their academic careers,” she said.
Mendoza-Beginez was born in Mexico and moved to San Jose when she was 8 years old. She excelled in school, graduating high school as her class valedictorian.
Initially, Mendoza-Beginez came to Berkeley to pursue a degree in environmental science from the College of Natural Resources. But midway through her freshman year, she realized that she had an interest and talent for engineering and worked hard to transfer into the college.
Outside of her engineering classes, Mendoza-Beginez has volunteered with the Rosie the Riveter-World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond. There, she developed a curriculum and taught lessons to low-income 4th graders in Richmond as part of the “Every Kid in a National Park” White House initiative.
After graduation, Mendoza-Beginez plans to tutor students from her old high school and apply to graduate school. Ultimately, she hopes to become a mechanical engineering professor.
Watch: Berkeley Engineering Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony (Mendoza-Beginez’ speech begins at 31:35)