College opens up career and life opportunities for first-gen student

A Q&A with 3M Impact Scholar Jimena Jimenez

April 21, 2023

Jimena Jimenez credits her parents for instilling in her the valuable traits of intellectual curiosity and problem solving. The University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering student, the first in her family to attend college, is putting those attributes to good use as she explores all the learning and leadership opportunities available to her on the Twin Cities campus.

“My father is an automotive mechanic, and he is the type of person to take it upon himself to repair and build anything needed,” said Jimenez, who hails from Monticello, Minnesota. “My mother supported me wholeheartedly in anything I pursued, no matter if it was artistic or academic. My parents allowed me to explore all my interests, instilling in me a creative and problem-solving mindset that led me to engineering along the way.”

Jimenez, an electrical engineering major, receives the 3M Impact Scholarship. In 2022, she served on the U’s Cargill Thrive Student Advisory Board, a partnership between the U of M and Cargill to ensure more equitable access for women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students pursuing careers in STEM, business, and agriculture.

“I genuinely enjoy attending the University of Minnesota, and I am not looking to rush the experience,” she said.

In this Q&A, Jimenez shares some of those maroon and gold experiences.

How did you choose your major?

I initially stumbled upon the mechanical engineering major without a clear understanding of what engineering, in general, entailed, and to be completely honest, I was heavily influenced by my dad's automotive background when choosing the major. However, after gaining valuable insights from my mentors that I’ve gained since coming to the UMN and exploring my own interests through projects facilitated by Anderson Student Innovation Labs and a summer internship, I made a decision to switch my major to electrical engineering.

What’s it like to be here?

The University of Minnesota fosters an environment of innovation and limitless possibilities. I’ve started to realize how many open doors there are available to me through the guidance of UMN faculty, the support of my peers, and the valuable connections that I’ve been able to make from attending this University. I have never been more motivated in my life to continue showing up everyday.

What’s been a highlight of the school year so far?

The highlight of this school year has been building strong connections in my major-related classes. I’ve formed strong friendships, study groups, and countless unforgettable memories with peers. We actually have a discord community of over 80+ students in our major, which I am proud to say I started. The server is always full of fun conversations, Electrical/Computer Engineering Memes, and cool tech videos. Additionally, I've had the opportunity to interact with and get to know my professors on a personal level. All of which has made college feel more like a tight-knit community.

What student organizations are you involved in?

One of my favorite things about the University of Minnesota is the infinite opportunities to get involved with so many diverse communities on campus.

I have actively built connections within CSE by participating in events organized by various organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Women in Electrical Engineering (WIE), and the Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEEE). During my freshman year, I traveled to high schools to speak on student panels aiming to demystify topics such as college, science, and engineering, and spoke on the student panel for Gopher CSE.

In addition to my involvement with CSE student organizations, it was important to me to become involved with the Latinx/Hispanic community on campus. I’m a regular of the Hispanic spaces and events hosted by Mi Gente Latinx and SHPE. In fact, I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 SHPE National and Regional Conference.

How has the 3M Impact Scholarship helped?

This scholarship means a lot to me, more than I could ever explain. I appreciate it not only for how it alleviates my financial stress but for the notion that 3M is actively using for diversity and inclusivity within engineering.

Last summer, I read 3M’s Corporate Scientist and Chief Science Advocate Jayshree Seth’s book, The Heart of Science: Engineering Footprints, Fingerprints, and imprints, and it portrayed engineers and engineering to me in a perspective that I had never before seen. It provided a realistic lens into engineering—one that has stuck with me, motivated me, and reassured me that I am in the right place. She spoke about her experiences working for 3M and praised 3M’s environment and mission.

So, I am proud to say that I have received this scholarship from 3M—and I will continue to push for diversity in my field.

What are your future plans?

I am a first-generation college student, and I have not had much exposure to the possible engineering jobs and fields. So, I am taking advantage of opportunities like research, internships, and co-ops during my undergrad years to learn more about possible career paths and future directions. I am excited to explore research this summer via the TRIO McNairs Program, and right now I am very interested in pursuing graduate studies.

No matter where I end up, I am certain that I want to work for a company with a mission driven by sustainability, strong ethics, and a commitment to increasing diversity. I place great importance on finding a workplace that fosters creativity, collaboration, and a culture of continuous improvement.

If you’d like to support students and programs in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website.