Jose R. Rivas-Padilla
Ph.D. Student, Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico
"Students should not be afraid to ask questions in their courses and to always build connections with peers that will push them to become a better version of themselves. I have found that my most productive learning experiences have come from group projects and collaborations with outstanding professionals that really care about my professional development."

Were you involved with the Minority Program Summer Engineering Workshops? If yes, what was your role, and how did you benefit from them? 

I was the SAT prep instructor for SEW and PREFACE as well as the Calculus Instructor for EABC. This was my first teaching experience where I was in charge of all of the responsibilities of a full course: teaching, homework, exams, and grading. The in-person interaction with students was incredible, and this opportunity helped me to feel reassured about my calling to become a future professor in academia. It helped me develop new teaching skills to adapt to a hybrid on-line and in-person environment in order to keep the students engaged and motivated in their coursework.

Tell our audience about what you have gained from the Minority Engineering Program. How has MEP affected you as an engineering student? What do you get through MEP that you don't get from other programs on campus?

MEP was one of my main support lines when I was struggling to survive my first two years of graduate school. I arrived at MEP seeking guidance to help me navigate through those difficult times and the staff provided the support and mentoring I needed. An opportunity was presented for me to tutor and assist in their engineering summer programs. During that first summer, I served as the summer co-camp coordinator and witnessed the tremendous impact that these summer programs have on the development of young upcoming engineers. The whole experience reminded me why I started my graduate school journey in the first place: to teach and mentor the next generation of STEM professionals. The next summer I returned as the Calculus TA and most recently I got to be the Calculus Instructor. Overall, becoming part of the MEP family provided the life I needed to believe in my abilities and my potential to succeed in graduate school and become a successful educator. 

What is one piece of advice that you would like to share with future engineers that you might not have known when you started your program of study? 

I would tell new students to not be afraid of asking questions in their courses and to always build connections with peers that will push them to become a better version of themselves. I have found that my most productive learning experiences have come from group projects and collaborations with outstanding professionals that really cared about my professional development. Also, I would tell them to not be afraid of reaching out for support when they feel overloaded. It was very useful for me to identify professional mentors that would help me navigate the rough waters of graduate school and would listen to me when I needed to vent. Finally, my last piece of advice for students would be to have a very clear goal of what they want to achieve and who they want to become. Graduate school and even undergraduate programs are a character-building experience, and sometimes when things do not go your way, you must find ways to remind yourself of why you started this journey in the first place. For me, it was to teach and become an educator, and MEP was certainly crucial in jogging my memory to remember this when I needed it. 

Anything else that you would like to share with us about your time at Purdue? 

Purdue is a great place with tons of organizations and extra-curricular activities to explore and get involved in. Please take advantage of these opportunities to build meaningful lifelong connections with outstanding individuals. Even with all the hard work and studying that is necessary to succeed at Purdue, it is also important to enjoy yourself and have fun!

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