As a first-generation Mexican American and the first person in his family to graduate from college, Manuel studied and interned abroad at the University of Bristol in 2015. His Gilman experience greatly influenced his academic trajectory and professional life, as he was motivated to pursue doctoral studies after working with his British peers. Manuel was also rewarded for his Gilman experience when he was hired at NASA, then quickly received a raise based on his experience with the University of Bristol and Airbus Corporation while abroad.
More importantly, it was the increased global competency and gained skills that he returned home with that continued to benefit his professional life and drove him to make a greater impact at NASA. For example, while working with international partners from Russia, Canada, the European Union, and England, Manuel’s Gilman experience enabled him to effectively approach and interact with his international partners. Manuel was also committed to expanding the global reach of NASA by pushing the organization “to work with nontraditional partners in both Latin America and possibly Africa.”
In addition to his efforts to improve NASA’s global mission, Manuel devoted his time in a volunteer capacity, supporting diversity recruitment for NASA and Stanford University, where he obtained his doctoral degree. Manuel was actively involved in recruiting minority and female students for the internship program at NASA and Ph.D. programs at Stanford. The desire to help his organization and university better support diversity and inclusion originated from his early observations of the lack of minorities and women in the engineering field. Ever since then, he has been passionate about changing the representation of the field.
Manuel has also volunteered his time to improve access to resources at NASA by translating materials into Spanish, which has helped increase Hispanic communities’ understanding of space.
“I do it on my own, but I’m happy because I see the impact. I see people being able to be more engaged, and I think that’s part of our mission. I’m a civil servant and I work for the government, so part of our job is to serve the public.”
Once a Gilman Ambassador, Manuel continued to share his story and his passion through outreach events in both Mexico and the United States, with the hope to encourage more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to go to college and study abroad.