The Power of Community — How EOE Became a Lifeline to One Alumna’s Success

October 12, 2020

Stellar grades. Strong work ethic. Heavy involvement in networking organizations. The ability to land a top summer internship.

We have come to identify these as key indicators of success in college and determining factors of post-college achievement.

While the importance of academic performance cannot be ignored – especially as a student at the Cockrell School of Engineering – there is another factor perhaps more crucial to success than a flawless report card: community.

alum clara v

For Texas Engineering alumna Clara V, that community was the Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program. And it completely changed the trajectory of her college experience.

Clara is a first-generation university graduate and the youngest of six children. And, as a Mestiza Tejana of Mexican and Karankawa lineage, her family had been in Texas since before the actual formation of Texas in 1845.

Despite facing natural obstacles as the first in her family to pursue a college education, Clara was determined to succeed following conversations with her high school guidance counselor who saw Clara’s potential and encouraged her to follow her passion for aerospace engineering – a passion she discovered on a high school field trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Clara became the president of the Mu Alpha Theta honors math club and graduated from Foy H. Moody High School in Corpus Christi as salutatorian — after taking all honors classes — before making her way to The University of Texas at Austin.

It was in her first semester’s introduction to aerospace engineering course when she first heard about EOE.

“I remember sitting in class when someone from the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and Pi Sigma Pi visited our class to let us know that we had a family waiting for us in EOE,” Clara recalled. “I was already homesick, so that not only piqued my interest but also spoke to my heart. I visited the EOE office the next day and encouraged everyone who even joked about feeling homesick to do likewise.”

Clara’s involvement in EOE soon became a lifeline to her success, providing her invaluable resources such as free tutoring and a part-time position as she navigated unexpected family hardships, the loss of both of her grandmothers, becoming a caregiver for her father and her own new marriage.

“At the Cockrell School, I learned that I was even more resilient than I thought and that focus, coupled with tenacity and drive, would always help me persevere through any challenge. EOE helped me to successfully handle competing priorities and to hone my innate practice of helping others while balancing uncommon responsibilities during my academic pursuits.”

Following her graduation, Clara went to work for the CIA where she spent a majority of her professional career, formerly holding positions as a Senior Technical Intelligence Officer, Director of a systems analysis staff and most recently as the CIA’s South-Central Regional Recruiter, where she helped to identify future CIA leaders and work toward a goal of transforming the agency workforce to reflect the United States’ diversity. Although no longer at the CIA, she still continues to serve our federal government.

Today, Clara is an advocate for the EOE program, encouraging students to get involved and explore how EOE’s extensive programmatic offerings can help them succeed.

“I guarantee that you will look back and treasure your EOE investment,” Clara said. “It is my hope students leave the program empowered. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I received in EOE, and I hope future students receive that same support for years to come.”