Alumna stresses importance of DEI pathways into STEM fields
Delia Davila ’18 received her introduction to engineering and STEM-related work in a familial and meaningful way.
“I remember going to Mexico and having my mom take me to the local artists to learn arts and crafts,” Davila said. “In Mexico, you make your own glue. You experiment. You mix flour and water and make your own piñatas. I also remember making my own clay, taking the sand from the water banks and drying it out.
“These are all the kind of things that engineers do. We make things. A lot of the young girls who choose to go into science, technology, engineering and math fields do so because we want that creativity.”
Davila spoke at a Nov. 2 panel discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM fields sponsored by the School of Engineering and Computer Science. She was joined on the panel by two alumni of other schools, Nicholas Haystings, a mechanical engineer who has been involved in creating paths to STEM fields for underserved communities and Lourdes Lopez, a software engineer. Patricia Lopez, diversity coordinator and director of MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Achievement) at Pacific, moderated the discussion.
Davila is a process engineer and technical project manager in the field of digital medicines. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and grew up in Stockton. Davila transferred to Pacific from Delta College, and immediately had to cope with “a sense of feeling that I did not belong. Imposter syndrome.”
“I was so worried about belonging at Pacific. I was not living in the dorm, and I was dropped at Pacific each day by my parents,” Davila said. “I knew that if I did not start getting involved at school, then it was going to be easy for me to disappear and drop out.”
Several STEM-related organizations, including MESA, made Davila feel more comfortable. She calls her involvement in engineering-related student groups “a turning point.”
Those types of organizations are essential, Patricia Lopez said, if engineering and science-related fields are going to attract more women and students of color. She cited some challenging figures:
- Black men make up less than 3% percent of students entering STEM fields, and Black women less than 2%.
- Hispanic men make up less than 4%, and Hispanic women less than 2%.
Davila also started spending time with students and staff at the Intercultural Student Success Center. “I got to learn about intersectionality, which is very important,” Davila said.
“In addition to people of color, we also are talking about women, people with disabilities and we are really focusing on the sex and gender minorities,” Patricia Lopez said.
Davila graduated from Pacific in 2018 with degrees in Bioengineering and Engineering Management. Since 2013, she has volunteered for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and currently serves as a regional director for a program focused on developing Latina leaders in STEM (SHPEtinas).
Davila works as a category manager for digital medicine manufacturing at Otsuka Pharmaceutical America, Inc. She enjoys sharing her culture through art and food, and was pleased to be asked to coordinate Hispanic Heritage Month activities at her workplace.
“That was very rewarding,” Davila said. “I liked to share my culture and learn about the culture of others.”