In support of diversity
When sophomore bioengineering major Brenda Venegas arrived on the Rice campus as a freshman, she became a part of HACER, the university’s Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice.
“When I came to visit campus for SOAR and Owl Days, I liked what I saw, both here at the school and with the group,” said Venegas. “I was eager to be part of it.”
This year, she took on the newly created position of cultural awareness chair, and her first project was designing an event for Hispanic Heritage Month. It was the first time such a celebration would be held on campus and Venegas said she said was given a great deal of freedom to design it she saw necessary. One of the things that was most important to her, she said, was that events reflect the whole of Hispanic heritage, not simply Mexican.
“Hispanic heritage isn’t just Mexican,” she said. “Many of us of Hispanic heritage are from other places and backgrounds. I wanted to provide a space where we showcased all of the voices.”
The event took over the Rice Memorial Center courtyard and featured foods from several Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in the Americas. Venegas also made a playlist to demonstrate the diversity of musical styles found throughout North, South and Latin America.
Combining cultures is something she said is important to her, both personally and as a member of HACER.
“It’s important to help people understand other cultures, but I think it’s also ok to make doing so fun,” she said. “I’ve The BSA (Black Student Association) co-hosted a dance with us, although that event was headed by the Office of Multicultural Affairs. I’m looking to do events that help students understand DACA and the social issues that are part of it. I think at Rice, reflecting on issues can feel more like a concept, but maybe people don’t have a personal connection to a particular issue. I hope to change that.”
Venegas originally wanted to be a doctor. But, something happened during her freshman year in high school.
“I discovered I was more interested in engineering, becuase I liked the application route, “ she said. “Also, I liked the way engineering applied the concepts in a more complex way, mostly through the use of math.”
That led her to bioengineering.
“I felt like bioengineering gave me the opportunity to create change on a large scale. It’s like one development in a delivery system can change everything.”
This coming summer, she’s hoping to intern in her native Dallas, at a medical manufacturing company. She spent her last summer at the same organization, working in Corrective and Preventative Actions.
She’s looking forward to the different challenge, though, as an opportunity to learn about herself and see where her career aspirations line up. And she plans to continue her work with HACER, running for the position of social chair. She says that will give her a chance to continue the work she’s doing to bring cultures together – without designing events around food.