KGAN-TV: Voices of Diversity: UI Student Inspires Hispanic Engineers

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dayane Benitez came to the United States from Ecuador at 15. She learned to be a leader early on, from her parents.

“What I was always taught by my mother was, 'behind my steps, my kids will follow,’ and what I’m doing now, even though I don’t have any kids, it will be for my kids,” Benitez said.

Now Dayane is living that advice, becoming an electrical engineer, like her father.

"My dad was a role model for me even though he was an engineer in my country, he came to the states to study even more,” she explained.

For Dayane, graduating from the University of Iowa Campus is coming after years of determination and adaptation.

"I went from being the most talkative kid in my class in my high school in Ecuador to being the most quiet one here, just because of the language barrier," she said.

It was an obstacle Dayane faced and overcame. She now invests her time in helping other Hispanic families find their way. She said that part of helping them get there, comes from overcoming cultural barriers.

"They still have the mentality, ‘why would I send my kid to four years in college rather than having them working right now? I want them to see that, what actually, I have done, they can do it as well,” she said.

Dayane’s passion is important to the College of Engineering.

"Engineering, the discipline, is severely lacking in Hispanic-American, Native-America, African-American diversities," Natalie Potter with the Dean’s Office at the College of Engineering said.

But Dayane is leading the way for change. “She's a strong role model," Potter said.

So strong that Potter nominated her for a student leadership award from the UI Chief Diversity Office for her outreach efforts and involvement in STEM education. Dayane won the award.

“This is just the beginning of me showing the younger students that if I did it, you can also do it it,” Dayane said. She hopes to go back to school in about a year to get her MBA.