The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Pi day panel; STEM professionals talk workplace diversity

(left to right) Fracisco Rojas, Test II Engineer at Teleplan; Amy Warner, registered nurse; Diego Rafael Anaya, first year medical student at UC Davis; Michael Flores, first year medical student at UC Davis; and Lori Brown, engineer and Project Lead over CA State Water project, were the speakers for the PI Day STEM professional panel in the Cultural Awareness Center on Thursday, March 14, 2019. Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Freedom Riley | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) were invited to be part of a panel at City College March 14, a day celebrated by some as “pi day,” in honor of the irrational mathematical expression.

The panel was composed of health care professionals and engineers of different backgrounds, and in Q&A format they were asked to comment on diversity in their respective workplaces.

The panelists were electronics engineer and software developer Francisco Rojas, registered nurse Amy Warner, electrical engineer Lori Brown, and first-year UC Davis medical students Michael Flores and Diego Rafael Anaya.

All but one of the STEM majors on the panel agreed that their work environments were not diverse enough.

Warner was the only one who said that her environment was amply diverse, in her experience. Brown, on the other hand, said that she was the only black person in her office at  the California Department of Water Resources.

“I’d say just under 10,” Brown said, noting how many people are engineers in the organization as a whole.

Brown is currently the project lead of the California State Water Project. She said that when she started high school, she was not strong in math, but challenged herself to get better grades in math to spite a fellow student she didn’t like.  

“The only way I could get back at (the fellow student) was to get an A in the class,” she said, “so that became my motivation.”

Brown moved on to college, and while she was studying to become an accountant, she met two electrical engineers in school.

“Just based on meeting them, I decided I wanted to be an engineer,” Brown said.

She said she considered meeting those two engineers to be the nudge that she needed to leave her then field of study and pursue a different career — electrical engineering.

Flores said he attended three high schools before he went to college, attributing the turbulence to his academic struggles at each school.

“Not everybody has the same opportunities in health care,” Flores said.

Flores said he had to work multiple jobs while juggling school tasks, and when it was time to move on from high school, he started going to City College.

“I thought, ‘OK, I can do this,’” he said.
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Flores’ interest in the medical field grew, compelling him to take more classes and eventually transferring to UC Davis to pursue his career in medicine.

“It’s a really complicated, difficult process, but I made it,” Flores said.

Rojas, who is on the hiring board of the software company he currently works for, said that more than half the staff were people of color, although management was mostly white.

“I know they’re out there; we just need to get them,” Rojas said about qualified people of color.

Rojas said he was an academically excellent student throughout his high school career and always knew he wanted to be some sort of engineer.

“I was always amazed with how things worked,” he said.

However, he couldn’t afford to go to a four-year college, so he decided to go to his local community college. After three years he transferred to Sacramento State University and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

Flores discussed some of the difficulties of assembling a diverse workforce.

“I think the long-term challenge is getting support from administrators,” Flores said. “There are lots of people who realize there’s a deficit in diversity.”

According to Warner, encouraging kids at a young age to go into more scientific careers would also help further diversify the pool of people in them. Brown added that kids should see people similar to themselves in STEM careers.

“It’s showing students of diverse backgrounds that it’s even possible,” said Warner.

Warner said that she didn’t know what she wanted to do before she decided to become a nurse. She had a chance to pick a career path when she was told by a leadership teacher that she’d make a good nurse.

None of Warner’s family or friends were in the medical profession, but when she explored the option, she said she found that she really liked it.

While the panelists didn’t have the same beginnings, they all found a way to scientific and mathematic careers they said they hope to pursue for many years.

“I just want to have a long, happy retirement,” Brown said. “That’s what we all have to work towards.”

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