UTEP Student Awarded IEEE PES Scholarship
April 10, 2018
From left to right, Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., Chair, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Lilia Sanchez; and Theresa A. Maldonado, Ph.D., Dean, College of Engineering.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and The Power Energy Society (PES) have awarded Lilia Sanchez an electrical engineering student from The College of Engineering a scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year. The IEEE offers a wide range of learning and career enhancement opportunities within the engineering sciences, and other technology areas. The goal of these programs is to ensure the growth and knowledge among professionals and to foster a commitment to continuing education among IEEE members. To receive this award students must be a full-time student in an undergraduate program, a U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canadian citizen and currently have a ¬-GPA of 3.0 or higher.
What is your major, classification, and what did you have to go through to apply/be eligible for this award?
I am senior electrical engineering student right now. I am going to graduate this May 2018. I always look for opportunities and apply for scholarships, internships, research and volunteering activities. These actions are a way to improve myself through the process of learning with professional and academic experience not just at school but also in related environments such as El Paso Electric, where I work, in the organizations I belong to, and in places where I have never been before but I know that help is required.
I was a junior when I started the application for IEEE PES scholarship. The first time that I knew about this opportunity was through an email that Dr. Velez-Reyes sent through our department email system. My attention was caught by this scholarship because it was for students who were pursuing a career in power. Being at El Paso Electric guided me to decide that the power field was the path that I wanted to focus on. I have been working at El Paso Electric for two years already. There were 10 sections that I had to go through in the application process. Four essays were written. The first one was about my interests in engineering along with my personal interests and career goals; the second one was a personal statement; the third one reflected all the achievements and awards that I have received and volunteer and employment experiences; and the last one was about my career and internship experiences. I really invested my time in this application.
In this case, I think that when you are yourself and give and do more than what you have to do, that is when opportunities knock on your door and you can take them or let them go. I believe that all the extra effort that I have done between volunteering activities that I was involved in and all the professional and academic experiences that I have been part of and this give me an edge in the application process. I am a member of several organizations at UTEP as well as at El Paso Electric. I emerge myself in my Co-op, volunteering activities, and technical experiences to the max. Helping students to improve themselves in professional areas and supporting people and projects that surround me are actions that, in this application, made me be a different candidate who could bring positive change.
This Co-Op had taught me the importance of possessing a reliable and sustainable power system for a community such as El Paso and meet their energy needs every day. Inside of El Paso Electric, there are several organizations that do a different type of volunteering work in the community. I took the initiative and became a member of a group of people whose role is to visit high school students, talk to them about our professional experiences with El Paso Electric, and encourage them to consider the power field as an option. All the members of this STEM group are full-time employees with more than several years of experience within the company. One of the aspects of participating in this group that encourages me to participate with these experts is that it provides me with a perspective about the importance of doing more than normal at school, since extra work is always paid off. I believe that through any type of experience, either from the academic or professional field, there is always a way to help others. I am a student with self-motivation to let other students know how to take advantage of their time at school and how they can do and be whoever they want to be if they just look for those opportunities of growth.
When and where were you when you received news of the award?
When I was notified I was in Arlington, VA, as one of the recipients of the 2017/18 IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus, presenting my poster about the NSF REU Research that I did at Boston University this past summer.
What were some of your thoughts?
I could not believe that I was selected. Even being a candidate for this scholarship was already an honor because this scholarship is very competitive and demanding. I never thought I was going to be selected. I am the first recipient of this scholarship here at UTEP and I was so blessed to have the honor to open the doors for future college students to this amazing opportunity, especially for the ones that would like to follow in my footsteps and pursue a career in the power field.
What do you think now that the news has had some time to settle in?
What is on my mind now, is that actions represent priorities and every time I stayed late nights, woke up around 5 am every day to organize my personal activities for school, and worked, and all the extra work I did, was paid off when I received the award.
What are the specifics of the award?
The specifics of the award to get this scholarship are the followings: Being currently full-time at a university/college or community college, working toward an electrical engineering bachelor's degree (or first professional degree), being a full-time student in the coming academic year at a university or college in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada that offers undergraduate courses in power engineering, willing to take at least three of the power engineering courses for a total of nine or more credits, being a U.S., Puerto Rican, or Canadian citizen or permanent resident and reside in IEEE Regions 1 through 7, and have a current GPA of 3.0 or higher.
How much money per year or semester? For what duration?
The financial support is for three years if you are applying. In the first and second years, the scholarship is for $2000 and the last year is $3000. Every year after the first one, IEEE PES Scholar recipient is evaluated and needs to apply for a renewal scholarship in order to receive the rest of the monetary support. Unfortunately, since I am graduating this semester I will not be able to receive the rest of the scholarship in the following years because it is just for undergraduate students.
How will this help your academic career?
This scholarship helped me to pay for my last semester of college. This award supported me in closing a significant and invaluable stage in my life, which is finishing my bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering with a concentration in Power. I really encourage any students interested in the power field to apply for this scholarship as soon as they can because it is an amazing opportunity not just for the money but for the other doors that this scholarship opens, such as the mentoring system of engineers in the power field, internships and co-ops with sponsor's companies of this scholarship, and the opportunity to compete for the excellence scholarship which will give you until $5000 and the paid assistance for the IEEE PES National Conference.
How grateful are you to the PES organization?
There are no words to thank the IEEE PES organization for this award. It is an honor to be the first student at The University of Texas at El Paso to receive this scholarship. I am a strong believer that hard work pays off. I started to provide a donation for this cause and encourage others that are already in this field to do the same. I am promoting this scholarship as an opportunity for change and improvement. It is important to work as a community and empower future generations to pursue a career in the power field and keep working for established goals. Being an IEEE PES Scholar helped me to move towards my goal of work towards a Masters in Protection and Control and stay in the power field.
What do you hope to do with your UTEP degree once you are done?
My goal is to work in the power field and pursue my master's degree in protection and control. I love that I am able to apply the knowledge gained at UTEP and be an example of courage and determination to other women students that are undecided to take the challenge to pursue a STEM career. One of my ultimate goals is to create an IEEE PES chapter in El Paso, TX. I want to approach more electrical engineering students and encourage them to pursue a career in the power field. One of the largest issues facing the power industry is the large percentage of employees reaching retirement age elderly. Currently, there is no way to record the vast knowledge that these employees with twenty to thirty years of experience have. This loss of such a valuable workforce and the attached expertise has become a significant issue, and it is leaving new employees without useful knowledge. Additionally, there are not enough prepared people in the power grid field to compensate for this loss and the lack of an established recovery process wastes time.
I have motivated and helped several of my friends apply to various internships that El Paso Electric offers throughout the year. I advised them of the application process, and interview techniques. I am going to continue contributing to this cause because I want to show engineering students that work in the energy field does not have just one target, and it is a contribution to society as well. The idea of introducing young engineers to this industry motivates me to believe that positive outcomes and improvements can be achieved with more stability in the system with the work of those new generations of engineers. I know that with small actions, ultimate goals can be attained.