When Cipriana Forgy was offered a process engineering position at Micron in 2014, the first thing she did was email her former professors at the University of Idaho.
“I told them, ‘I got my white shirt — and we earned it together,’” said Forgy, a 2017 graduate of University of Idaho’s Engineering Management master’s program.
It was the culmination of Forgy’s six-year journey to become an engineer in the United States, one filled with setbacks, heartache and perseverance.
An International Journey
Forgy’s dream began as a child growing up in Ignacio Zaragoza, Chihuahua, Mexico, where her family would often drive past an auto parts manufacturing plant. She would see the workers, each wearing a color-coded shirt representing their position.
One day, the 10-year-old asked her parents, “Who are the people wearing white shirts?”
Those are the engineers, they told her.
Forgy knew that one day, she wanted to be among them.
Forgy earned her first “white shirt” position after completing her undergraduate degree in industrial engineering at Instituto Tecnologico Superior de Nuevo Casas Grandes in 2002. She began working full time at the plant in Ignacio Zaragoza.
But she wanted more. She visited Nampa, Idaho, to be near her sisters and improve her English. While in Nampa, she met Colin Forgy, whom she married in 2006.
The couple began their life together in Boise, and Forgy started working at Micron as a production operator. Impressed by her dedication and effort, Forgy’s managers recommended she pursue an advanced engineering degree and recommended Engineering Management Program offered at U of I Boise by the College of Engineering. The distance-education program is designed for engineering professionals who want to further their careers.
Forgy was accepted to the program, and program manager Denise Engebrecht confirmed U of I would accept her undergraduate degree from Mexico. But before she could start classes, Forgy was laid off from Micron, losing access to the educational benefits the employer offered.
Without the benefits, she couldn’t afford the program.
Forgy took a job as a quality lead at Boise-based Fresca Mexican Food, and she and Colin welcomed two daughters. Eventually, she got another job with Micron, and again enrolled at U of I Boise. In addition to her engineering classes, Forgy took English courses to improve her language skills and joined Toastmasters International to become a stronger public speaker.
Through it all, she continued applying for engineering positions at Micron. Pregnant with her son, Forgy said some discouraged her from pursuing her degree and seeking promotion.
“I remember some of the comments were not kind, but I think it helped me realize that I had to overcome those obstacles if I wanted my ‘white shirt’ dream to come true in the U.S.,” she said.
She had support, too. At U of I, she was cheered on by Engebrecht, college Dean Larry Stauffer and Engineering Outreach Associate Dean Barry Willis. Her husband, family and coworkers also rallied around her. One of her biggest supporters, Forgy said, was her father, Benjamin Beltran, who died during her first semester of the program.
“Every time I wanted to quit, I thought of my father and about making him proud,” she said.
A Vandal Success Story
At one point while pursuing her degree, Forgy said a manager impressed with her work asked her why she wasn’t an engineer.
“No one’s believed in me yet,” she told him.
But people did believe in her — and in 2014, her hard work was rewarded with her current post of process engineer. Forgy credits her achievement with her instructors and supporters at U of I.
“Denise and Dr. Willis were key for achieving my engineering management degree,” she said. “They both kept it professional and helped me with the best advice on classes and work. Denise’s advising has been crucial in this long journey; she never gave up on me, she was more than an advisor through this process. She was an advocate and a friend and always believed in me.
“U of I cares for their students and I am so proud to be a Vandal.”
After she graduated from the program in 2017, her Micron team bought a cake to celebrate. She told them more about her journey, and her lifelong quest for that “white shirt.”
A few days later, she received a gift.
“One week after that celebration, my production manager gave me a white shirt with the Micron logo on it,” Forgy said.