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Alumna Story: Maria A. Hernandez de Quintero, BSCE ’64

Current City:      Caracas, Venezuela

What did you do in the year immediately after graduating?
I went back to Caracas, Venezuela, and two months later started working as a sanitary engineer. Two years later, I got married to a civil engineer. We have three children, two sons who are also civil engineers and a daughter who is a financial adviser in Miami.

What do you do for a living now? What does a typical work week look like for you?
I retired in 2000 but since then I volunteer for two foundations that provide care and education to children at risk: SOS Children’s Village Venezuela and the International Association of University Women. In the first one, I belong to the board of directors; in the second one I am the chairman of the education committee, which is in charge of scholarships for university students.

I also keep busy enjoying my role as a grandmother of six, three girls and three boys. Maia, who is nine at present, has already decided that she will study at UM.

What got you interested in a career in Engineering?
Since high school I have liked numbers and excelled in mathematics. It seemed something you could count on as being right or wrong without any doubt. Since the 1950s, Venezuela started the construction of many important civil works for which many architects and engineers were needed. Numerous women were studying engineering there at the time.

Describe your most memorable moment as a student at the College of Engineering (CoE).
The day I graduated, cum laude, four years after I started my studies as the only female in the class.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
Study hard while at the University, and take advantage of all the University offers both academically and in extracurricular activities. Never stop learning throughout your entire life, be friendly to classmates from foreign countries and keep in touch with them after you leave UM. It is a plus to learn a foreign language too. Don’t be afraid to pursue a demanding career even if you are raising a family at the same time. Yes, you can do it.

In what ways did your CoE experience have an impact on your career and who you are today?
Engineering forms your mind and thinking process in a way that it prepares you to tackle any type of work anywhere. I was able to choose where I wanted to work according to my personal needs. I only regret that I did not continue my education further

What motivated you to support the College of Engineering?
Venezuela was in political turmoil when I graduated from high school, so I am grateful for the peaceful environment that I found [at the CoE]. Teachers were dedicated and always helped me when I asked for information beyond the classroom lectures. Even though I was only 16 when I started, the only woman in civil engineering and afraid of boys, I did not feel rejected.

How would you encourage alumni, friends and family to give back to the College of Engineering?
Motivate women so that they learn to appreciate the numerous benefits an engineering career offers them in a globalized world; help people realize the advantages that the college offers to the students with respect to the learning process, the numerous activities, the peaceful environment and the diverse nationalities that make up the student body.

How would you describe the College of Engineering in seven words or less?
Place to prepare for a global career.

I also want to congratulate UM and the College of Engineering, including staff and students. Keep up the good work so that many future generations may continue to flourish!


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