Engineering group offers salsa classes

Each free weekly salsa dance lesson draws 15 to 20 students to the Hispanic group.

Amy Horst

A group of chemical engineering students has advanced its studies of geometry and viscosity with evenings of fluidity and higher planes of coordination.

They said they would like to teach fellow students how to spin, sway and move their feet to the sounds of classic salsa groups such as El Gran Combo.

While some might be surprised that chemical engineering students teach everyone else how to bust a move, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers’ members see their classes as a way to enrich the community.

The student group offers free weekly salsa classes on campus.

“We encourage our members to be proactive not only in the classroom, but outside, to do outreach with the community,” said Rodrigo Molina, a chemical engineering junior and the group’s vice president.

The group has only promoted the salsa classes with fliers in Amundson Hall, but attendance has been good, said Shayra Arocho, the group’s president and a chemical engineering junior.

“The first time, I was not expecting that many (students),” Arocho said. “I thought that salsa was not that attractive to people – I was really surprised that a lot of people came.”

Arocho and one of her friends got the idea to have free University salsa classes last semester while talking on the phone, and the group started the classes about two weeks ago.

About 25 people attended the first class, which members said was almost too many for the room in the Science Classroom Building. Since then, about 15 to 20 students have gone to each class, which Arocho and other group members teach.

Interest among students has been considerable, group members said.

“There have been people in my classes who came up to me asking me about the classes, because they know I’m part of the society,” said Anamari Laboy-Toro, a chemical engineering junior. “They were very interested in the classes, but sometimes they didn’t know what (salsa) was.”

Charles Cameron, a second-year chemical engineering graduate student, said he has seen the fliers around Amundson Hall, but has not gone.

“I guess the idea of seeing chemical engineering students salsa is enough of an incentive to get people there,” Cameron said.

Arocho said she gets a lot out of teaching students to salsa.

“I love it,” Arocho said. “I feel really satisfied with the work I do, I feel like I’m helping out and I just feel good.”

The University chapter of the society is almost as new as the salsa classes. After it was absent from the University for a few years, Arocho and other chemical engineering students reactivated it in September.

They said they hope to offer scholarships to Latino students interested in studying engineering, and they want to do more outreach with high school students in the Twin Cities.