Student Spotlight: Elizabeth Gutierrez-Gutierrez
Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with Elizabeth, member of E-STEM and SHPE President
Motivated is one the words to describe current undergraduate computer science student Elizabeth Gutierrez-Gutierrez. Gutierrez-Gutierrez attended South High School in Denver and started at the University of Denver (DU) and is a first-generation student. Her parents did not complete high school so attending college was very important and her education allowed her to provide for her son, Miguel.
Coming from Denver and being familiar with the neighborhood around DU Elizabeth Gutierrez-Gutierrez started her undergraduate journey in the fall of 2018. She declared computer science as her major and joined the Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science in her first year. Once a part of the Ritchie School Gutierrez-Gutierrez quickly joined Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (E-STEM).
Gutierrez-Gutierrez said that E-STEM allowed her to connect with peers and provided programming to help build a community with them and on campus. She said that E-STEM was very crucial during her first year, especially Director of E-STEM Anthea Johnson Rooen, and considers her peers influential in her journey as well. After her first year Gutierrez-Gutierrez began to participate in Black Student Alliance and Latinx Student Alliance where she was able to join in and connect with other students on campus. She hopes to continue to be involved with the DU community after she graduates with the Alumni of ACTION.
One especially important event that she attended at the Ritchie School was a panel that had all alumni of color from different STEM fields. Gutierrez-Gutierrez said that there was at least one computer science alum on the panel and seeing them was very important for her. Before this event she had been struggling and was unsure if she would be able to make it at DU, however after this event she felt motivated to continue moving forward. Seeing these alumni provided a sense of familiarity and community because of their shared experiences. “I think just seeing people of color in those fields succeed and come back and talk to us is exciting because you get…to see yourself in them and see what you're going to do later on.”
As Gutierrez-Gutierrez continued in her journey at DU she became active in the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) and attended one of their conferences. Gutierrez-Gutierrez said that attending the NSBE conference was shocking and really powerful because it was one of the first times she had been in a room filled with people of color who are in STEM. Johnson Rooen encouraged Gutierrez-Gutierrez to consider starting the DU chapter of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and helped to connect her so she could attended the SHPE conference.
While at the SHPE conference Gutierrez-Gutierrez said that she was able to experience and see all of the various cultures in the Latinx and Hispanic communities, which she found very exciting. Gutierrez-Gutierrez accredits the conference as part of the reason why she wanted to establish the DU branch of SHPE. With SHPE, Gutierrez-Gutierrez hopes to build a community and “provide a space where we are all able to come together and celebrate our successes in such a hard field and be able to see each other.”
In the Department of Computer Science Gutierrez-Gutierrez said she was especially thankful for the support that was provided by Teaching Assistant Professor Mohammed Albow, PhD, Assistant Professor Kerstin Haring, PhD, Teaching Professor Faan Tone Liu, PhD, and Teaching Professor Susanne Sherba, PhD. Albow encouraged Gutierrez-Gutierrez when she struggled with classes and always offered support during his office hours.
Though she is motivated, Gutierrez-Gutierrez struggled when first entering the computer science field due to her natural shyness. She learned that with computer science it was necessary to talk to others in order to succeed, as well as learning to accept failure sometimes. She said, “I think I am most proud of being okay with failure. It happens to all of us. It’s something that’s inevitable.”
Gutierrez-Gutierrez said one of her role models is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and is inspired by her. Gutierrez-Gutierrez has experienced moments working in STEM where she felt like her voice didn’t matter but Ocasio-Cortez inspired her to speak up and speak her mind; she knows that her voice matters and representation matters which has helped motivate Gutierrez-Gutierrez in her internship and on campus.
We are proud to have Gutierrez-Gutierrez as part of our Ritchie School community and so thankful she shared her experiences with us. Thank you for letting your motivation lead to you toward success and we look forward to what else you will accomplish during your time at DU!