UCSB Engineering

June 10, 2009

A Story of Exceptional Personal Courage and Persistence…

Engineering senior receives UCSB Whitted Award

Picture of Ruben SalvadorClick for downloadable link

Ruben Salvador

Credit: Rod Rolle for UCSB

Santa Barbara, California, June 9, 2009—Completing a journey that began 17 years ago, when he was a 13-year-old immigrant from Mexico, Ruben Salvador of Guadalupe, CA, will receive his Bachelor of Science degree at in Electrical Engineering at UC Santa Barbara this Saturday at 1:00. That journey was fraught with roadblocks and obstacles unknown to his peers.

Salvador immigrated to the United States from Mexico City with two of his sisters, ages 15 and 17, to reunite with their parents. Once here, he began working in the fields as a laborer, becoming one of the primary wage earners in his household. In high school, he demonstrated a passion for learning and began dreaming of a college education. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, but because of his responsibilities to his family, Salvador continued to work full-time, attending college when he could. After eight years, he had earned five associates degrees: engineering, math, physics, chemistry, and liberal arts.

In 2005, the clearly motivated student was admitted to UCSB's College of Engineering. Because he wasn’t eligible for financial aid of any kind, he continued working in Santa Maria and commuted to UCSB. During his first quarter, he worked long hours on the weekends and in the evenings. Often, he slept in his car someplace near campus so he could make it to class without the additional commute. Eventually, however, the stress of this schedule took its toll, and he withdrew from the university.

Salvador subsequently attained permanent residency status, which allowed him to apply for financial aid. In spring 2006, he quit his job and returned to campus, but after two quarters, he again found himself in academic distress and was dismissed from the university. Undeterred, he enrolled at Santa Barbara City College, where he successfully completed several transferable courses, and then enrolled in a summer session at UCSB. He returned to UCSB as a full-time student in fall 2007.

He began working as a student employee in the Mathematics, Engineering, and Sciences Achievement (MESA) program, where he helped coordinate local and regional Science and Technology/MESA Days, and participated on outreach panels to underrepresented junior high and high school students. Empowered by his success in this endeavor, he sought out campus resources, continued to achieve academic success, and served as a math and science tutor to a small group of students.

Because of his dauntless forbearance in attaining his degree, Salvador has been honored with UCSB’s Alyce Marita Whitted Memorial Award, which recognizes a non-traditional student's endurance, persistence, and courage in the face of extraordinary challenges while pursuing an academic degree. The Whitted Award is one of the university’s highest.

After graduation, Salvador’s agenda will continue to be full and demanding: He’ll be working through the summer for the MESA program; serving as a mentor to the Santa Barbara Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering examination (the first of two examinations required for licensure as a Professional Engineer); and pursuing a career in electrical engineering in the Santa Barbara area.


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About the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara
The College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara is a global leader in bioengineering, chemical and computational engineering, materials science, nanotechnology and physics. UCSB boasts five Nobel Laureates (four in sciences and engineering) and one winner of the prestigious international Millennium Technology Prize. Our students, professors and staff thrive in a uniquely-successful interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial culture. Our professors’ research is among the most cited by their peers, evidence of the significance and relevance of their work.    


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Related Links

KCOY Video Story on Ruben

MESA Engineering Program

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Media Contact

Tony Rairden
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