For Katya Domínguez, family is everything. While the news of studying mechanical engineering at Central Michigan University surprised her grandparents, her dad always knew she'd work on cars in some way.
"I have a good relationship with my dad; he's an industrial engineer," Katya said. She credits her own love of riding motorcycles and fixing cars to her dad's job of designing them. "There are more engineers in my family than any other profession."
Following in the footsteps of her parents and other family members before her, she saw college as the next logical step from high school. But Katya had a new path to forge, too: higher education in the United States.
Being the child of immigrants and growing up in America, she knew college could be expensive. Katya wanted to make sure it wouldn't be a financial burden on her parents. A full-ride Centralis Scholarship and a spot in the Honors Program sealed the deal on CMU for her.
"I just know how much my parents worked to help us out," Katya said. "They've done so much for me. So, growing up, I knew college would be my responsibility."
While she enjoyed grabbing dinner with friends from down the hall and studying with classmates, there was still something missing. Katya longed for the extended cultural family she had grown up with.
She found a connection in the halls of the Engineering and Technology Building. She noticed a name outside an office door that was distinctively Hispanic. The light was on in the office behind the nameplate.
"I immediately went into the office and started talking to the person," Katya said. "That's how I met Lizandro."
Lizandro Tremolada, an academic advisor in the College of Science and Engineering, happily welcomed the conversation.
"That was the first time I spoke Spanish since being here," Katya said. "It was just a huge breath of relief. It was someone who got me."
With Lizandro's help and encouragement, Katya started working toward creating that sense of community she had missed so much. She is now the founding president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers chapter here on campus. The group works to prepare students to become leaders in STEM fields.
"This is founded on the Hispanic values of community and family," Katya said, "but we have members from the Philippines, China, Egypt and India. It's great to be providing a community because I know what it's like to not have one."
Now, Katya has literal family on campus, too. Her brother, Eduardo, is a Multicultural Advancement Scholar. He joined her here at CMU because of the connections she's made within the community. She said he wanted a bit of that, too.
"I told him I wish I had gotten involved sooner," Katya said. "I was so desperate for a connection. As soon as I had that one person, it spread. And it's little things that make you realize the people here care on a deeper level."