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Renewing the Latin American Connection

In the 19th century, talented engineering students from Latin Amer ica traveled the long road to Rensselaer. Today, their spirit lives on in efforts to bring more latin American students to the Institute.

By William B. Patrick

Graduate student Victor Marrero recently traveled to Caracas, Venezuela, to help renew a Rensselaer tradition that dates back to the mid-19th century. Marrero has joined forces with Napoleon Ferrer ’55, president of the Venezuelan Chapter of the Rensselaer Alumni Association, to attract more Latin American students to the Troy campus.

In late September, Marrero visited Caracas to meet with Ferrer and other chapter members to discuss how to interest talented students in Rensselaer. While Marrero applauds the Institute’s initiative to increase diversity by reaching out to more minority and international students, he believes there is opportunity to tap the talent of young Latin Americans even more.

Marrero, a student in the Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering and president of the Rensselaer chapter of Phi Iota Alpha, the Latin American fraternity, grew up poor in Puerto Rico, but his family’s sacrifices allowed him to attend private school and earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from universities in Puerto Rico. As an American citizen he was eligible for federal funding and scholarships that have enabled him to study for the last year and a half at Rensselaer.

“I think coming from poverty and being able to accomplish your education gives you the big picture of what the necessities are,” Marrero says. “A lot of people in America don’t understand what sacrifice is, like having to be the best so you can get out of a country. That takes a lot of discipline. So when you get opportunities, you will then have the perspective to go back and help others.”

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