Loan repayment changes lives of Hispanic female engineering students

LAS CRUCES – E. Eugene Carter describes himself as a privileged person: a white American man born at a time when these attributes offered advantages that were not available to everyone. His wife, Rita M. Rodriguez, began her American journey at age 16 – a Cuban refugee with a penniless, non-English speaking, and uneducated family.

Both earned doctorates and had very successful careers, but Carter never forgot the disparity of their early days. Now a retired finance professor, her passion is helping Hispanic women pursue their success as engineers. To that end, he founded the E. Eugene Carter Foundation to honor his father, a self-taught engineer, and his wife, an expert in international finance.

The foundation supports female undergraduate engineering students, prioritizing first-generation Hispanic women. Upon completion of their engineering degrees, Opportunity Award recipients’ direct subsidized federal loans of up to $20,000 will be repaid by the university from funds provided by the foundation.

“The thing is, students are usually told in the second year that their loans will be paid off when they graduate. Persistence to some degree is the issue that we want to mitigate by ensuring that students are strongly incentivized,” Carter said.

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Carter started the EEC Foundation which to date has funded over 300 undergraduate engineering students, of whom over 250 have already graduated and had their student loans paid off by the end of 2022. Two engineering students from NMSU received the scholarships and graduated in 2021. Four other recipients graduated in May.

“This award helped relieve so much stress associated with taking out loans and paying them back after graduation. It allowed me to focus on getting my engineering degree This award really motivated me to pursue my studies in engineering,” said Chance Jaramillo, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and will be moving to San Bernardino, Calif., to begin her career with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

Another recent graduate, Maria-Adeliz Ordoñez, will work for Lockheed Martin full-time this summer and begin her graduate studies in the fall at NMSU. “This award meant a lot to me and my family. It was a huge help and a real blessing,” she said.

“I saw the injustice that I thought women faced,” said Carter, whose mother had a college degree and a librarian’s certificate but did not work outside the home in line with attitudes of the 1950s. “The world has persisted in this attitude towards women with careers. I wanted to do something constructive to help women and women of Latin origin and the country needs engineers. I also think that women will probably improve the profession in terms of broader perspectives and the range of issues considered.

Carter earned master’s and doctorate degrees in industrial administration at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University). He became an assistant professor of finance at Harvard University.

Rodriguez arrived in Miami, 16 and a high school graduate. She studied accounting at a vocational school and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico. She saved enough money to enroll in a semester of economics at New York University, which then funded her doctorate. in international economics.

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Carter and Rodriguez met at Harvard where she was applying for a professorship. The department’s senior professor said Rodriguez was the brightest candidate they’d seen in years, but a woman shouldn’t be teaching at Harvard Business School. An enlightened dean won out, and Rodriguez was the first female full-time tenured professor at Harvard Business School, where she taught international finance.

Carter and Rodriguez married in 1972. Carter then taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then moved to Chicago in 1977 where they both taught at the University of Illinois, where Carter headed the finance department.

Carter took the unusual step of retiring to become a stay-at-home dad when Rodriguez was called up by the Reagan administration and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as independent director of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in 1982. She served 17 years until 1999 under the Reagan, HW Bush and Clinton administrations. Carter served as associate dean and professor at the University of Maryland at College Park.

“I was born an economist,” Carter said. True to his calling, Carter values ​​data. The Society of Women Engineers 2019 research facts show that its investment in scholarships is well directed.

  • 22% — bachelor’s degrees in engineering obtained by women in 2018
  • 15% – had engineering jobs in 2019
  • 6.7% — bachelor’s degrees in engineering earned by women of color in 2018
  • 5.6% – women of color in engineering jobs in 2019

“Supporting underrepresented engineering students, including women, Hispanics, and first-generation, is one of the College of Engineering’s primary goals,” said College of Engineering Dean Lakshmi N. Reddi. “We have many programs actively working towards this goal. Although still in the minority, I am very proud of the fact that our female engineers are graduating faster and with higher GPAs than their male counterparts.

“This award changes my life. … I am forever grateful to Dr. Carter for creating such an exceptional award,” Jaramillo said.

Ordoñez had advice for other students like her: “Believe in yourself. No matter what makes you feel like you can’t, or tells you you won’t succeed, ignore the negativity. Keep going and don’t give up. »

And Carter’s advice: “We all form expectations and then have experiences throughout our lives. Most of our life lessons come as our learning happens through the mix of our expectations and what life throws at us. “God deals the cards. We have to play them,” I was told. Empathy, learning how others perceive what they are up against, can teach valuable lessons beyond one’s own experiences. Practice.”

For more information about the EEC Foundation, visit

Linda Fresques writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7416, or by email at [email protected]

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