On the evening of February 7, UGA students met with more than 70 professionals during “Orgullo Hispano,” a networking event for UGA’s Hispanic students. The professionals in attendance varied from faculty members to lawyers to Twitter employees. Hosted in Tate Grand Hall by the Hispanic Student Association, the annual event provides an opportunity for Hispanic students to expand and enrich their professional networks.
HSA’s president, Emelynn Arroyave, said that connecting students with faculty and professionals in their field is important because it grants them the opportunity to bridge the gap between minority students and influential people on campus and in their desired careers.
“It can be daunting to try to form those priceless connections and professional networks that people always talk about,” Arroyave said. “A lot of us are first-gen students, so we don’t have the luxury of having our parents or family members connect us with their friends in the industry. We are essentially starting from zero, building our professional networks from the ground up.”
The event provides an encouraging environment for students to feel comfortable enough to ask questions or seek guidance. Fatima Banda, HSA’s secretary, expressed how challenging it can be to make connections in a student’s field of choice.
“It’s sometimes nerve-wracking to not see many people you share a background with in the career you plan to pursue,” Banda said. “Orgullo allows us the opportunity to connect with those select few and discuss some of these experiences and their outcomes.”
Raymundo Moncayo, HSA’s vice president, made a more direct connection from the event to career success beyond graduation.
“This event is meaningful as it allows Latinos to gain access to career networking opportunities,” Moncayo said. “By creating connections at networking events, it allows for us to be able to more feasibly find a job.”
Each year, HSA tries to increase the scope of faculty, alumni and professionals in attendance, and a lot of thought and effort goes into making the student participants feel prepared, comfortable, and confident. The organization provides sample discussion and ice breaker questions, and students are encouraged to use the SGA Professional Clothing Closet, if needed.
Numerous sectors and companies were represented, including Twitter, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, law firms, and graduate schools, to name a few. Several Hispanic trailblazers attended, as well, including Brenda Lopez Romero, the first Latina to be elected to the Georgia General Assembly, Deborah Gonzalez, the first Hispanic district attorney in Georgia, and David Araya, the co-founder and CEO of the Hispanic Organization Promoting Education (HoPe), a student support organization for Georgia high school students.
“Do you have a passion for journalism? Well, here is the Dean of Grady College! Considering grad school? Well, here is the director for recruitment and diversity initiatives at the UGA Graduate School,” Arroyave said. “Our students are amazing and impressive individuals, and we want to give them a chance to showcase that to the people in attendance.”
Several departments across campus supported the event, including Multicultural Services and Program, Student Affairs, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the UGA Graduate School, and the Terry College of Business.
“It’s been great to see the widespread support across the university campus for our programming,” Arroyave said. “I’m excited and grateful to see how HSA has grown over the years and how our reach has expanded across campus.”