“I really looked forward to the opportunity to relate to someone who is like me.”
– Carlos Mendez
Born to parents who emigrated from Puerto Rico to America, Carlos Mendez (pictured third from left) often struggled with his identity and belonging and found himself wondering how to succeed academically and socially. But with the help of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s (ODI) LASER program, Carlos found a place where he can relate to people just like him, and he wasted no time getting involved. “I first joined LASER as a second-semester freshman. I was looking to increase my involvement in the Latino community. What I found was a program that exceeded my expectations through an independent structure and its focus on student relationships,” said Carlos.
Not only is Carlos involved in LASER as a mentor, but as a biomedical engineering major, he has been placed with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students to give them insight and advice on the “opportunities that lie within the program.” Carlos fondly remembers how he impacted one particular STEM student: “Last year, I mentored an aspiring biomedical engineering student and was able to share much of what my major encompasses (both good and bad) with her. She was able to use this information as she decided on what to study. I helped her to make a decision and seek scholarships. She received a full ride here at Ohio State.”She’s not the only student that Carlos is guiding. This year, he’s mentoring a high school student who wants to partake in a STEM field, and Carlos hopes to be a part of that student’s journey.
Carlos, who will graduate in the spring of 2016, decided to take on biomedical engineering because it encompasses two subjects that he has an interest in: the engineering thought process and human physiology. What intrigues Carlos about biomedical engineering is the fact that it is directly applied to improving life and keeps him busy with a challenging mix of courses. He has yet to decide what he wants to do after he graduates because he is “still deciding between a career in industry, graduate school, or a mix of both.” Carlos’ major also has offered him the chance to serve on various organizations such as the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), where he is the current events chair.
Carlos was once a student who was unsure of who he was in relation to those who were different from him, but with newfound relationships with the ODI’s programs such as LASER and LSAMP, Carlos is engineering his way through his struggles, and as a result, he’s helping to improve the lives of students who are like him.
“Don’t excuse yourself from trying something new like student organizations or academic programs. You never know what you may discover on this opportunity-wealthy campus. To quote Howard Thurman, ‘Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive’.”
Written by Whitley N. Hawkins, ODI Advancement Intern