CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A Corpus Christi native with an incredible work ethic and unique bravery – that’s Gypsie Alvarado. The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student will receive a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree at the spring 2017 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13. Alvarado, who put aside apprehension related to being a woman in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), decided to become her own role model.
“I recommend any girl who is interested in the engineering field to do it, not because I did it, but because they want to,” said Alvarado, a first-generation college graduate. “I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed females in engineering who are scared or shy to do things, whether it’s learning machinery or raising a hand in class. You only have this one life to live, so don’t be afraid.”
Throughout high school, Alvarado took an interest in art, and planned to pursue that passion in college. However, through the advice of her parents and a realization that she was a talented mathematician, she decided to give engineering a try. Now, five years later, she is glad that she did.
“I didn’t think I was going to like engineering,” said Alvarado. “I planned to try it for a year and then switch into art, but I ended up really enjoying the engineering department. All of my professors here have been great teachers, mentors and coaches.”
The unexpected path Alvarado forged might not have been initially planned, but she says she is still able to feed her passion for art as an engineering student.
“You can see how the two blend together…there’s art inside of engineering,” said Alvarado. “In art you have to see how things are going to be made, and in engineering it’s kind of the same thing; you say, ‘how am I going to make this work; how am I going to design this.’”
Like creativity and design, higher education holds significant value for Alvarado. In spring 2013, she made the College of Science and Engineering Dean’s List. She says, while her classes are sometimes difficult, those challenges have taught her to work even harder to accomplish her goals.
“University classes challenge me to think in a way that I didn’t think before,” said Alvarado. “The material I am learning helps me analyze the world a little bit differently.”
Throughout her college years, Alvarado didn’t just focus on education. In addition to her studies, she was a member of the Islanders track and field team in 2013, and was active in student life.
“I recommend all incoming freshman join some sort of campus organization, and if there isn't an organization that suits your needs, then grab five friends and create one,” said Alvarado. “I think the most important part of student organizations is they create a lasting bond between students.”
Alvarado was a founding member and president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), a campus organization which helps connect like-minded students.
“There’s this common joke in the engineering field that engineers have no social life, and it’s sort of true!” joked Alvarado. “SHPE incorporated not only social events like game nights, but also networking opportunities, resume building workshops and other professional events.”
Additionally, Alvarado worked as an Islander Success Advocate at the Center for Academic Student Achievement (CASA) for two years. CASA is a hub for tutoring, resources and extra instruction, and a place where younger students can receive help transitioning into college life. At CASA, Alvarado is no ordinary employee; she goes above and beyond to help other students, constantly considering the needs of her co-workers, supervisors and those she helps.
“Gypsie has numerous attributes that demonstrate her superior work ethic and reliability,” said Hector Duarte, CASA Director. “In addition to being a hard worker, Gypsie’s ability to work self-directed is initially what made us decide to appoint her as the student leader amongst her co-workers.”
Recently, her efforts were recognized as she was awarded second-runner up at the 2017 Student Employee of the Year awards ceremony.
“Being recognized with an award was one of the most special moments I’ve had on campus,” said Alvarado. “I go into work each day, and do my best, regardless of what kind of day I am having. Engineering is tough, but I try to bring only a smiling face and a positive attitude to CASA.”
After graduation, Alvarado plans to enter the workforce. She is particularly fascinated in the electrical and manufacturing aspects of engineering, interests that sparked the development and manufacturing of her capstone project, Aquabat.
Aquabat is a coastal water quality surveying system designed for estuary environments and developed in collaboration with four other engineering students, members of Alvarado’s capstone team. Aquabat has been used to conduct research on water quality samples including conductivity, temperature and pressure.
As Alvarado looks back on her college career, she recalls many fond memories comprised of late night library study sessions, computer lab hangouts and the time spent on campus with friends and fellow engineering students – something she says she will cherish life long. She is also thankful for her supportive parents and for her Texas A&M-Corpus Christi professors and instructors – especially Dr. Andrew Conkey, Mr. Ronald Carlson and Mr. Rafael Fox – for pushing her to reach her full potential and giving her confidence as a woman in STEM.“Being a first-generation college student is important, but it doesn’t define me. My parents always told me that it’s most important to be happy,” said Alvarado. “For my sister, being happy meant starting a family, and for my other sister, being happy meant going into the workforce. For me, being happy meant going to college. I strongly recommend if you want to be an engineer, and especially if you’re female, just do it and don't let anybody get in your way because it is a fruitful career path.”