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2021 Summer Capacity Building Intern


Name: Arlin Arpero

School and Major: The University of New Mexico, Geography with minors in Journalism and Mass Communication, and Community and Regional Planning

How did you become interested in STEM?

I attended Central New Mexico Community College and majored in Business. I was required to take a science credit, so I took Geography. My professor, Marissa Wald, had a passion for teaching Geography, and it made me fall in love with the subject! I learned that Geography is much more than maps; it’s about the people, how they live, and how we affect our planet. After completing my Business Associate at CNM, I transferred to the University of New Mexico and changed my major to Geography. I am now a rising Senior, pursuing my Bachelor of Sciences. At UNM, I have become more interested in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the technical side of Geography.

Arlin Arpero stands in a gymnasium, smiling at the camera and wearing a white cap and gown with tassels. A woman wearing a maroon shirt and jeans stands to Arlin's left. A man wearing a maroon shirt and a cap stands to Arlin's right.
Arpero (center) with parents, Carmen Arpero (left) and Ruben Marquez (right), at high school graduation robbing ceremony. Credits: Blanca Quintanilla

How did you get interested in the program? 

I was working in food service and wanted to get experience in my field of study. I found out NASA had so much more to offer than space exploration and career options for engineers. After that, I honestly just applied to anything and everything NASA offered. I was fortunate enough to have the Capacity Building Program (CBP) reach out to me, and have my internship funded by the New Mexico Space Consortium. Now, I understand what the CBP does and how they are able to help people and communities with Earth observation data. It’s a great feeling to know my work this summer is going to make an impact!

How do you help the Capacity Building program area?

I work on a team with 7 other interns and we all contribute to multiple projects. The projects I am a part of are working to create  Earth Observation trainings for Groundwork USA, creating a CBP StoryMap, generating a presentation for CALMet XIV, and assembling the inputs for a CBP Interactive Mapper.

  1. Groundwork USA is an organization that assists low-resource communities in their environment, equity, and civic engagement. As a team, we are creating a virtual summer camp to teach the youth about remote sensing and data collecting.

  2. A StoryMap is an ArcGIS Online product that combines story telling with the art of maps. I am co-leading this project, we are creating a StoryMap for the Capacity Building Program to highlight the history, projects, and people within the CBP.

  3. CALMet XIV is a conference where we will be presenting the flooding tools EOTEC DevNet has collected by creating flooding scenarios and decision-support tools.

  4. We are updating the current Biological Diversity & Ecological Forecasting interactive mapper to include data from CBP’s programs: DEVELOP, SERVIR, and ARSET.

What’s your favorite part of the job so far? 

Since the job is all online, I was worried for the social aspect that comes with an internship. However, I was able to get to know my team and work closely with them virtually. I am a people person, so I enjoy all the social events my mentors (Lauren Childs-Gleason, Sydney Neugebauer, and Michael Ruiz) and my project lead (Ella Haugen) put together for us. I have noticed that NASA highly encourages networking and reaching out to others within the organization, this is something I have not experienced before in other work environments. There were so many networking events I was able to attend and not only meet interns outside my team, but across the country at other centers! Meeting others in the same career field is a great opportunity and I am learning so much from them.

What are your hobbies? 

I love going to concerts; listening to music is something I cannot live without, so listening to live music is even better! I have attended many local shows here in Albuquerque, and I have traveled out of state to go to festivals. I also enjoy outdoors-y activities like hiking, camping, going to the lake, and off-roading. As well as spending time with my family, my friends, and my cat Burrito.

5 people stand smiling at the camera. They are outdoors with a blue sky filled with many hot air balloons. Arlin Arpero stands to the left, wearing a sweater and a hat, next to a man in a hoodie and hat. In the center, a man wears a bright rainbow cap and a white coat covered in colorful pins. Two women stand to the right in the image, wearing black jackets.
At the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico with boyfriend, friends, and local weatherman Steve Stucker (from left to right: Arlin Arpero, Vaughn Trujillo, Steve Stucker, Meagan Schwartz, Selena Calderon). Credit: KOB 4 Crew Member

What motivates you? 

My family motivates me the most. I am a first-generation college student, coming from a family of Mexican-Americans. My parents sacrificed so much for me to get a better future than the one they were given. They had trouble understanding why I switched from Business to Geography and what jobs I could obtain with a degree in science. This is why I strive every day to make them proud and show them I can be successful in a STEM career. This NASA internship helped prove myself and what I am capable of doing, making them much more supportive. I used to be ashamed of where I came from, but now my culture is a big part in who I am. It also motivates me to become a part of the few Hispanic women who are in STEM careers. I want to show others like me, that we can do more than what the world expects from us.

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