Vanessa Santillan says that SBCC has provided the best opportunities in her life so far. She earned her associate degree in Computer Network Engineering and Electronics (CNEE) in 2015. The CNEE associate degree allowed her to work in the information technology (I.T.) field for about four years before deciding to transition from being a part-time to a full-time SBCC student to earn a degree for transfer to a four-year university. She is applying to universities in the UC and CSU systems and plans on earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

“I entered the I.T. industry through the connections and knowledge I gained from the CNEE program,” Vanessa said. “I had the opportunity to travel to Florida for the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration for five days and attended the Latina Leadership Network conference.”

She also attended the 2022 Grace Hopper conference virtually, thanks to a grant through the SBCC Foundation from Santa Barbara Associates. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is a series of conferences designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. It is the world’s largest gathering of women in computing.

“Thanks to JennyErika [Barco Quinonez] and the academic counselors at SBCC’s Transfer Achievement Program (TAP), I was a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar (NCAS). I planned a mock mission to the moon along with my team Gold Gemini, and we presented it to NASA staff. And thanks to my computer science professors Nathalie Guebels and Stephen Strenn, I had an internship at UCSB’s Quantum Foundry over the summer, where I helped conduct research at the Quantum Photonics Lab.”

Vanessa cherishes the friendships and connections she has made at SBCC and the resources that have helped along the way, providing essential skills and support when needed. She’s made many friends through the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program, which provides academic support, networking, and resources to underrepresented students, in addition to funding for conferences and other professional opportunities. She also finds it rewarding to help others who are learning: she is a PAL (peer-assisted learning) tutor for the introduction to Python programming class, and she strives to make programming more inviting to beginner students.

“The scholarships I’ve received through the SBCC Foundation have been very helpful, making it possible for me to attend SBCC full-time to pursue my degree and transfer,” Vanessa said. These scholarships include the Laurie Converse Scholarship, Ridley-Tree Scholarship, Sarah Gregory Memorial Scholarship, NSF S-STEM Scholarship, and ESTEEM Scholarship.

With her education, Vanessa hopes to create technology that is inviting to everyone. “I want to build computer systems, internet-of-things devices, and wearable tech,” she explained. As a woman in tech, she is also interested in taking on more challenging roles in the tech industry. She was impressed by one of the workshops at the Grace Hopper conference, during which the presenter offered helpful statistics and strategies for women to work their way up into leadership roles.

Vanessa is excited about her future as a computer engineer and grateful for her education and all the opportunities she has pursued at Santa Barbara City College.

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