Transfer student works to engineer an inclusive campus

March 01, 2022

Connor Becerril performs an experiment

Connor Becerril ’22 believes if you want to find the right community, you can create it yourself.

Becerril transferred to Quinnipiac two years ago, only weeks before COVID-19 hit. He previously attended Middlesex and Edison community colleges and found the transfer process to Quinnipiac to be an easy one.

“I was looking at a lot of colleges, but Quinnipiac’s engineering program felt like an appropriate fit. It’s a small program with professor and student relationships,” he said. “Other colleges really didn’t feel that focused on transfers. Quinnipiac offered resources that care about me as a transfer student.”

These include a transfer student-focused orientation, said Becerril.

Becerril, a civil engineering major, saw an opportunity to fill a gap as he settled onto campus.

“I’ve been a part of the National Society of Black Engineers [NSBE] for years. I knew from previous experiences how helpful it is, creating a space and community for minority students to excel in,” he said.

Along with students Laura Atkinson ’22 and Sebastian Vacco ’22, Becerril began meeting with engineering professors to figure out how to bring NSBE to campus.

Becerril is president of the Quinnipiac NSBE chapter.

Though still largely in the planning stages, NSBE members participated in the joint Engineering and Computer Science Kickback in September. They also helped to organize a large pizza party along with other engineering groups including the Society of Women Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers last semester.

“My experience as a Black and Spanish student experience will be different than my peers, so I’m working on having space set up so future students don’t have to build it,” he said.

Becerril’s efforts to create a more inclusive community at Quinnipiac led to an invitation to join the Quinnipiac University Advancing Diversity in Science
(QUADS) program. QUADS brings students and faculty to underserved schools in Ansonia, Hamden and Meriden to facilitate STEM-based projects for high school students and their teachers that will benefit their communities.

“We are helping to instill confidence and break down communication barriers between students and teachers,” said Becerril. “There can be a negative assumption that you need to listen to them, that what the teachers say goes. We try to empower the students that these are their projects and we’re there to guide them.”

Becerril describes the training process before he began work with QUADS as intensive and effective. For six weeks, the team met on Saturday mornings to participate in exercises on how to connect and work with students.

“We explored how we understand ourselves, and how to let go of biases or barriers. We shared our experiences dealing with racism and the education system,” he said. “I learned about barriers that white people experience, which is something I never thought about or considered before. The training greatly helped to create empathy for other people.”

Upon graduation, Becerril hopes to work in hydrology engineering.

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