"SACNAS Biography: Theresa
Maldonado, Electrical Engineer"
||My father is from
Eagle Pass, Texas and my mother is from San Benito, Texas.
I was born at Travis Air Force Base, California, and grew
up in California, North Dakota, Georgia, and Texas. My
parents first language was Spanish, but they chose not
to teach us Spanish so that we would never face discrimination
due to an accent. I am the oldest of five children, with
two brothers and two sisters. I am the first person in
my family to attend college. In an unusual turn of events,
my decision to attend college motivated my parents to
attend college, too. When I was growing up, I was taught
that school should come after all of my other responsibilities
at home. Because of this I felt guilty for pursuing an
education. In traditional Mexican-American culture, girls
are often taught to take care of the house and family,
whereas men are in charge and do things outside the home.
the oldest, I always had to take care of the others, which
put me in a leadership role. This experience would help
me later in my education.
I went to thirteen different schools between kindergarten
and twelfth grade. Although military schools are excellent,
I did not get a strong science background. Junior high
was when the pace of my educational development accelerated.
I was placed in advanced classes in English, mathematics,
science, and social studies. My trigonometry and calculus
teachers were very encouraging. My calculus teacher, in
fact, suggested that I consider engineering as my major
in college, but I just thought "What the heck is that?"
I was also in the concert band and on the basketball team.
I learned some very valuable lessons from basketball in
those years. We would have two hours of practice, and
the first hour and a half focused only on the fundamentals
- running, dribbling, shooting, etc. The last half hour
was spent on strategy. I began to realize that by concentrating
on fundamentals, whether in athletics or academics, a
person will have the abilities needed to excel at other
I first attended a junior college in Georgia after high
school. My goal was to be a high school mathematics teacher.
I took one education class, and I ended up changing my
mind. I had one very interesting calculus professor at
this school. My perception was that he was a sexist, and
he made a couple of comments in class that substantiated
my thoughts. I remember one time he asked one of the two
other girls in my calculus class a question, and when
she didn't know the answer, he shouted "You women belong
in the kitchen!" Pretty soon I was the only female left
in my calculus class. This teacher told me at the end
of the year that I should consider applying to Georgia
Institute of Technology after I got my two year degree,
and that I should try engineering. Although I was offended
by this person at first, he ended up being very encouraging
and gave me real motivation to focus on engineering.
I chose electrical engineering rather blindly, but I did
know that mathematics was my ticket to engineering. I
ended up making straight As my first quarter there. There
were not very many women in the electrical engineering
department at Georgia Tech. I was usually one of two or
three women in a class of 80. That fact alone made me
uncomfortable. I was afraid to ask my professors questions.
I would spend hours trying to figure out trivial things
so that I wouldn't have to approach the professors. In
general, I found engineering and mathematics faculty to
be very uncommunicative. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and
was recruited by a company that sent me back to school
for my master's degree in electrical engineering. I finished
my Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1990, and accepted
a faculty position at University
of Texas, Arlington. Finally, after all these years,
I am the teacher I wanted to be.
It is very important that I am a female who is a professor
of engineering. Over the years I have had to listen to
comments from others who said I was not qualified. I had
to convince myself that I was qualified and that I would
get my Ph.D. By concentrating on the fundamentals, I have
attained a position that I truly enjoy, and that is the
most important point.
© Biography part of SACNAS Biography Project : http://www.womentechworld.org/bios/electrical/articles/sacnas.htm#