Celebrating Latinx Clark School Students

news story image

For materials science and engineering sophomore Alessandra Contreras, being a first-generation college student made her feel like she had something to prove: “It took me a while to learn that I earned my spot.”

At Maryland Engineering, Contreras says she now knows she belongs. Instead of the competitive environment she’d envisioned before college, she has found a welcoming one—from her professors and advisers to her tight-knit cohort of A. James Clark Scholars. “In reality, your classmates become your network of support,” she says.

Together with her network of fellow Clark Scholars, Contreras is excited to take on the Grand Challenges for Engineering. For her team’s multi-year service-learning project, they are brainstorming a wide range of challenges and solutions—from improving access to clean water to improving urban infrastructure. She also looks forward to declaring her major specialization: materials for energy.

Being a member of the Latinx community, Contreras finds the diversity on campus empowering. She has enjoyed being a student ambassador for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and connecting with prospective students and the newest cohort of Clark Scholars to join UMD this fall. “Growing up interested in engineering, I didn’t always see that much Latinx representation. Now that I’m doing engineering, I realize I always could do it,” she says. “We always could do it.”

Published September 28, 2023