Happy Latinx Heritage Month! The Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research honors and celebrates the cultures, contributions, and lasting influence of Latinx, Chicanx, and all Hispanic-identified Americans with ancestors in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Spain. While every year Americans come together to observe National Latinx Heritage Month from September 15th through October 15th, IEOR is continually aware of the achievements, resilience, cultures, and contributions of Latinx faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

This year, we kick off National Latinx Heritage Month by spotlighting Class of 2022 student, Leo Soto. We asked Soto to share how his heritage has shaped his journey at IEOR and beyond. Read his narrative below:

“To me, being Hispanic means celebrating and recognizing everyone’s differences through compassion, equity and kindness. My Latinx roots have amplified these values by expressing opportunity and inclusivity in my pursuit of becoming an Industrial Engineer and an educator.

When my parents immigrated into the United States from México City, México in 2003, I watched them struggle to adapt to the norms of the American way of life. However, their perseverance and determination opened doors of opportunity for my siblings and I to pursue our hobbies and passions, while still keeping our heritage as the foundation to our successes. We never forgot our roots. We continued to make posole for Christmas, put together altars for dia de los muertos, baked rosca de reyes, and played Selena at every function. I strengthened my Latinx roots of language, food, music, holidays, and morals, while embracing and upholding the diversity of those around me.

Volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club has shown me the lack of resources and opportunities underrepresented students had access to in predominantly hispanic schools. It is vital to recognize the inequities these students encounter so they can have access to the best education available. I’ve spent the past three summers volunteering for organizations, like the boys and girls club, to develop comprehensive, rigorous, and engaging educational programs aimed at closing the achievement gap. I hope by using my cultural experiences to relate to these students, I can understand the context to best continue to identify their needs.

Leading the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers as president and being part of the Hispanic Engineers & Scientist at Berkeley has been my guide to making ethical and responsible decisions. These two student-run organizations on campus have inspired me to continue celebrating my hispanic heritage in my academics and career path, while also creating opportunities and an inclusive environment for everyone.”

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Leo!