Mexicana becomes the only woman in her class of 2022 to earn a master’s degree in engineering from USC

Karla López Sánchez graduated as an engineer from USC. (Supplied)

Photo: Karla López Sánchez / Courtesy

When Karla López Sánchez left her native Jalisco, Mexico to emigrate to the United States at the age of 13, she did not understand why her parents separated from her and her sister.

Now, at 27 years old, he gives thanks for the effort they made, since this allowed him to obtain a quality education that he would never have been able to have in Mexico.

Sánchez graduated last week from the University of Southern California (USC) with a master’s degree in Electrical/Controls Engineering. Sánchez was the only Mexican woman to graduate with this degree and was also the commencement speaker for the Latino students.

Sánchez previously earned her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA and is the first in her family to earn her college education.

“I really like robotics and that area called controls and I love being able to help people with products that can make their lives easier in the future,” said the recent graduate. “My last project was a breathing mechanism that will be connected to a robot which will help children with respiratory problems.”

Sánchez said the road has not been easy. She initially very much questioned her parents’ decision to send her to live with her grandmother and uncles in Los Angeles.

“Yes, I had seen them but I didn’t know them very well,” the young woman recalled.

However, since she was little she had been very applied and once in the United States her plan to be the best did not stop.

Karla López Sánchez graduated as an engineer from USC. (Supplied)

He recalled that one of his first field trips as a high school student was to visit the USC and UCLA campuses. From the moment he saw both universities she felt that he belonged there. He didn’t know how he was going to pay for it, but he did know that good grades would help a lot.

So she made an effort to learn the English language so that she could finish the English as a Second Language course and start her regular classes. She made it into honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

She graduated from high school with a 4.22 grade and was accepted to every college she applied to including UCLA.

“That was one of my dream schools,” he said.

However, the hot streak was short-lived as he found out about the cost and that he didn’t qualify for financial help, so he had to change plans. He enrolled in community college where he earned associate degrees in math, science, and physics.

Shortly thereafter, she learned of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship for all students regardless of immigration status.

His effort and tenacity led Sánchez to win the scholarship which finally allowed him to transfer to UCLA and study his engineering career.

The same foundation financed his studies for his master’s degree. Without hesitating twice, Sánchez chose USC, the university he knew he belonged to since he first visited in 9th grade.

good memories remain

Sánchez said she can’t help but feel nostalgic about being torn from her culture, her native language and her country, but in the end it’s all been worth it. She said that she still has very good memories of her childhood, such as the walks she took with her family.

“My sister and I had a nanny who took care of us because my parents worked all the time, but when they were resting we would go on family trips to a new city or a new state,” said the engineer.

Karla López Sánchez (left) and her family in Mexico. (Supplied)

Three years ago her parents and younger brother were finally able to come to the United States legally after her older sister, who is a US citizen by birth, petitioned when she turned 21.

Dream fulfilled

Sánchez said she was very excited that her mother and siblings were able to attend her graduation to see the fruit of her decisions.

“I feel proud of myself, especially because I have always felt that one does the best one can with the cards that are given to us”, explained the young engineer. “I feel that the lack of opportunity pushed me to do impossible things, or maybe it was just the motivation and drive that I have as a person, but that I am very happy to have fulfilled my dreams.”

Sanchez said she is also proud to have excelled in a predominantly male career where on many occasions she was the only woman and person of color in the room.

“That was a challenge, but it gives me hope to see that there will be a change and more people in our community choose these specialties because we really belong in any classroom that we want,” he stressed.

Sánchez said he will work independently in engineering while he finalizes regulation on his immigration status or obtains a sponsor.

He will also continue to work on a hobby that he managed to turn into his business;

an online clothing store @foryouboutiqueLA.

“Fashion is one of my hobbies. I love saying that because there’s this idea that women in engineering should be a certain way and I’m completely feminine, I love makeup and I’m also completely into engineering,” she said. “I am Mexican, I am an immigrant and I am an engineer.”