Photo: Representatives of Chevron Corp., Niccole Boswell and Andy Chidalek, at center, were joined during a ceremonial check presentation by, from left, Interim Dean Ranu Jung and students Charlotte Farolan, Shadeh Ferris-Francis and Paola Jiron. The students are officers of the Women in Computer Science organization, which benefitted from a portion of Chevron’s contribution.

Looking to diversify its workforce and support the engineers of tomorrow, energy giant Chevron Corp. has started a relationship with FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing. Representatives came to Miami earlier this year for the first time to get to know students and faculty. Impressed, the company followed up with a donation of $20,000 for student organizations and the first-generation general scholarship fund. And just this week recruiters held a campus information session and interviews to fill internships at Chevron’s locations around the country.

“One thing that we were very interested in is the demographics of this school,” said Niccole Boswell, Chevron’s diversity portfolio manager. The college drew attention initially for its reputation as the country’s top producer of Hispanic engineers and a leader in graduating African-American engineers.

“We also like what you’re doing here in terms of K-12,” Boswell added of the college’s many pipeline and related programs, “all the things that you’re doing in the community and helping kids get interested in engineering, in the STEM fields.”

Case in point: Among the groups that Chevron met with back in the spring was the student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. At the time members were building a Formula One-style racing car to enter into national competition.

“We were dealing with whether or not we would have sufficient funds to go to competition and whether or not our members would have to bring that money out of pocket,” recalled Juan Trujillo, a junior mechanical engineering major who is the organization’s vice president. The Chevron reps saw the students’ progress on the vehicle and, equally important, heard about their work with local elementary and secondary school students, which includes visiting schools and making presentations to summer campers. “We spoke to [Chevron] a lot about our outreach programs, and they were definitely thrilled with what we’re doing,” Trujillo said. “They saw a lot of potential.”

Chevron subsequently earmarked the largest portion of its gift – $8,000 – for the group, which used the money to send 13 members to Maryland for the competition in May, their racecar emblazoned with the Chevron name.

To further promote minorities in STEM, Chevron also gave funds to the student chapters of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Women in Computer Science. Interim Dean Ranu Jung applauded the company’s commitment to encouraging underrepresented students.

“This is exactly the kind of support structure our industrial partners can provide to help move us from access to success,” she said.

And students expressed excitement about possibly securing internship opportunities with a global corporation that employs nearly 70,000 people around the world. Chevron typically offers interns full-time jobs once they have graduated, Boswell explained.

Mechanical engineering major Ryan Sheffield, a junior, welcomed the recruiters’ visit. “Chevron is a big company and them coming to FIU is great,” he said. “We’re growing, and a good measure of that growth is big companies coming here.”

Fellow mechanical engineering major Jose Medina, also a junior, echoed the sentiment. “I think it’s good that FIU’s name is finally getting out there. We’re a young university so it’s obviously going to take some time, but it’s just that the talent and the potential that the students here have has finally broken through and it’s starting to show nationwide.”