Become the Best of Us: Unlock Your True Potential - Eben Ortiz

I would first like to say that I am definitely not the same person I was four years ago. During this time, I’ve had a lot of accomplishments I’m proud of, but I’ve also made mistakes along the way. However, it’s learning from all these experiences that has allowed me to grow as a student, leader, and professional. And it’s my passion for helping others that motivates me to mentor students who can look up to me and who can ask for guidance. My goal is to become a worthy enough mentor so that students will want to learn from my experiences. Which is why I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to do that now. My hope is to support the next generation so they can be greater than the ones before them.

"My goal is to become a worthy enough mentor so that students will want to learn from my experiences"

My journey first started in high school when my favorite class was Calculus AB/BC. I remember having friendly competitions with close friends to get the highest scores. Those competitions kept me motivated to work harder. When college applications came around, I gave more thought about my career choices. I began to think about life after high school. I realized that I’d always been a rather curious person who thought about how things worked or how they were put together. For example, I often wondered how parts from a complicated rollercoaster fit together or how a simple mechanical pencil worked. I took simple things apart to see if I could put it back together. That’s when I started thinking about engineering and began researching different engineering fields. In addition, I always thought that robots were cool. All of these thoughts eventually led to my interest in Mechanical Engineering. Finally realizing I was interested in engineering got me excited because I heard a lot of great things about being an engineer. My goal from that point on it was clear, I was going to work my hardest to become a Mechanical Engineer.

"I often wondered how parts from a complicated rollercoaster fit together or how a simple mechanical pencil worked. I took simple things apart to see if I could put it back together. That’s when I started thinking about engineering and began researching different engineering fields".

Even before I started attending UCI, I’ve always had the support of my family. I am a first-generation student and I’m also one of the first in my family to attend a 4-year University. Both my older brother and sister did attend college, but unfortunately only as part-time students due to finances and other responsibilities. My family began as a low-income household, but my siblings worked hard to earn their degrees and thankfully now they are both licensed nurses. As I graduated from high school, now it was my turn to go to college. I was fortunate to have the moral and financial support of not only my parents, but two older siblings as well. I am extremely grateful as my family’s hard work and sacrifices allowed me to have many opportunities they never had. Their hard work and belief in me pushed me during hard times. After 4 years I’m really excited to be able to dedicate my degree to them. At the end of the day, it isn’t just my degree, it’s my whole family’s degree in Mechanical Engineering because I couldn’t have done it without them.

"At the end of the day, it isn’t just my degree, it’s my whole family’s degree in Mechanical Engineering because I couldn’t have done it without them".

Advice I have for any incoming college students is this: Identify your support system. Your support system can be anyone whether it be family, friends, and mentors. The goal is to surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you and who will be there for you during good and bad times. They will support you, motivate you, and wish the best for you. Even if it’s just one person, it’ll be enough to make sure you achieve your goals. This is also related to surrounding yourself within a positive environment. That is why it’s also important to be active in student organizations on campus. Being aware of on-campus organizations and departments is a great way to find your home away from home. This is the only way to be aware of all the opportunities and resources available that will help you achieve your goals. Do not go through school alone! Doing so will be unexciting and passionless. However, I also know how intimidating it is not knowing where you belong on a large campus because I went through that my freshmen year. Fortunately, I found the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), which is an inclusive Latinx STEM organization that focus on academics, professionalism, leadership, and community outreach. SHPE became the first organization I ever joined and I’m glad I did because I credit SHPE for helping me get to where I am now.

"Fortunately, I found the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), which is an inclusive Latinx STEM organization that focus on academics, professionalism, leadership, and community outreach".

SHPE provided an opportunity to earn my very first leadership role. Joining SHPE at UCI’s Executive Board as a sophomore was a big step toward meeting amazing and relatable academics who were about support and professional growth. I was nervous about meeting new people, but ongoing participation in events led me to become our campus’s SHPE Event Director. I was responsible for planning social events and activities, which was so much fun. I remember those experiences as one of the best times of college life. The role definitely put me out of my comfort zone and was very challenging, but those experiences built the leader and mentor I am today.

Another piece of advice I’d like to share is to learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This means trying out new experiences, even if you were hesitant about it at first. For me, this meant joining SHPE. The best part is that we can grow in every aspect of our lives. Growth as a professional or individual is difficult if we don’t allow new experiences. Keep challenging yourself and you’ll see yourself transform. It may not be easy, but it will be well worth doing. I’ve grown from a shy and nervous freshman to SHPE Vice President of Internal affairs, 3 time LA marathon finisher, and the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate of the Year during my senior year. But in the end, these are all things I didn’t do on my own. I’ve always had my support system with me and couldn’t have done it without them. It’s important to remember no matter how successful you want to be, you can always go farther when you have great friends, a supportive family, and inspiring mentors with you. Along with this, there is one more thing that keep me motivated and is a fundamental part of who I am.

"Keep challenging yourself and you’ll see yourself transform. It may not be easy, but it will be well worth doing. I’ve grown from a shy and nervous freshman to SHPE Vice President of Internal affairs, 3 time LA marathon finisher, and a Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate of the Year during my senior year".

And that fundamental part is has to do with fact that my favorite superhero is Spider-Man. While he may be a fictional character, the lessons he’s taught me are real. I take the quote “With great power, comes great responsibility” to heart. No matter what, heroes never give up and always does what’s right for the greater good. And I think that’s especially important for the mentors and leaders who need to set examples for those who look up to them. As leaders and mentors, they are in positions of power that impact and influence others. And having that power is a great responsibility. That’s something I like to think about whenever I’m facing a hard decision or whenever I’m having a hard time. I think about that quote because it helps me think about what is the correct choice in a difficult situation. It reminds me that I have people who care about me and look up to me and how I can’t let my failures overcome me. That quote reminds me about my responsibility to never give up and always do the right thing. And even though I just graduated with the Class of 2020 and my time at UC Irvine is over, those words will stay with me forever, “With great power comes great responsibility”.