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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Audrey Paris Chuakay photographed on SDSU's campus. (Courtesy photo provided by Angel Juarez) Audrey Paris Chuakay photographed on SDSU's campus. (Courtesy photo provided by Angel Juarez)

Pinoy Pride: Finding Her Chosen Family at SDSU

Engineering senior Audrey Chuakay talks about her identities as a Filipina and woman in STEM, and how SDSU's organizations help her explore them.
By Melinda Sevilla

For senior computer engineering student Audrey Paris Chuakay, family is everything. 


She texts her mother back in the Bay Area every day, updating her on her challenging coursework, her internships, and her dog, Gusella. But for Chuakay, family goes beyond her immediate relatives.


Chuakay says her family is both blood and chosen. Her chosen kin are those she’s made through her involvement on-campus during her time at San Diego State University.


As an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI), SDSU has proudly celebrated October’s Filipinx American History Month (FAHM). As a Filipina student, Chuakay says she’s greatly benefited from the cultural organizations and opportunities SDSU offers.


She currently serves as an ate, the Tagalog term used to describe an older sister or respected friend, in SDSU’s chapter of AB Samahan, a club for Filipinx students to learn more about their cultures and and serve as ates and kuyas to younger SDSU students. Two of her past roommates for two years are friends she met in the organization.


“I’ve learned so much from my ates and kuyas in AB Samahan,” said Chuakay. “I got to intern at the ZIP Launchpad for one of my kuya’s start-up projects: an app called Evolve that served as a matchmaking app for engineers looking for start-ups seeking talent.”


Her sophomore year, Chuakay even took a Filipino class in SDSU’s Linguistics department for credit on campus to learn the language from professor Atilio Alicio. “It was fun to learn more about the grammar and vocabulary for the language,” said Chuakay. 


Chuakay also finds connections with her college of engineering community through her involvement in the award-winning College of Engineering Student Council (CESC) and the SDSU MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program. While Chuakay served as Vice President of Marketing for CESC, the College of Engineering Student Council earned an Aztec Achievement Award for Outstanding College Council. 


“As an engineering student, I felt it was important to be involved in diverse leadership opportunities on campus,” said Chuakay. “I was able to meet other students outside of the College of Engineering through the ZIP Launchpad while still collaborating and growing with other engineering students through the student council.”


Through the support of her family back home and her SDSU family, Chuakay has support for difficult but fulfilling work, like her favorite: hands-on labs. She says working with FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), or boards that have switches and buttons on it to code programs for certain tasks and games, are her favorite. 


“In my Embedded Systems Programming (CompE 375) course, we ran a morse code program using FPGAs. It was fun to see a tangible outcome,” said Chuakay.


The first in her family to study engineering, Chuakay is set to graduate in December.


She says she will continue to celebrate her roots. “Important events that involved Filipino-Americans have been neglected in our history books throughout our entire schooling that are just as important,” she said.


At the heart of it all, Chuakay is here to inspire.


“I’m proud of not only being a female engineer, but a Filipina engineer in a male-dominated industry,” she said. “I hope to inspire more Asian women like me to follow their interests and pursue their career path in STEM.”