Office of Multicultural Affairs

Keynote Speaker: 

“It Doesn’t Take A Rocket Scientist”

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Rivera grew up with an avid interest in science, machinery and fixing things.  Her family always encouraged her to go to college and have a professional career.  

Rivera attended Texas A&M University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering.  She then joined McDonnell-Douglas Space Systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, to work on NASA’s Shuttle and Space Station programs for the next eight years.  Rivera left NASA to pursue, what she now understands was, a tremendous interest in understanding what makes people tick.  Her career took her through several years in Technical Sales of environmental systems and water treatment chemicals onto becoming a corporate trainer facilitating life changing seminars on stress management for executives at companies around the country as well as motivational speaking.  It was while she was conducting seminars that Rivera discovered her comedic skills.  Rivera signed up for a weekend class on stand-up comedy, at the end of which she performed a five-minute routine.  It was a personal turning point.  “I knew I’d found what I was looking for,” Rivera recalled.

Almost immediately Rivera became a regular at Comedy Clubs nationwide.  She gave up her day job and became a professional comedian.  She used her experiences to create the hit one woman show “Rocket Science and Salsa,” directed by Debbie Allen for which Rivera earned a "Best Lead Actress" nomination by the NAACP Theater Awards, as well a nomination for "Best Choreography" for Allen.  She has appeared on television in "Extreme Fakeover", "National Lampoon’s Funny Money", “Funny is Funny" among others.  She was a guest on “The Dennis Miller Show,” “The Roseanne Show”, ”The Martin Short Show" and featured in the "Paul Rodriguez Latin All Stars."  She has also headlined on entertainment programs for Univision, Galavision and on “The Latino Comedy Jam” for Telemundo.   In 2007, Shayla hosted the 13 episode TV series “You’re Not The Man I Married” for the Lifetime Real Women Network.   The series continues to air nationwide.  Shayla Rivera has been named "Funniest Latina Comedian" by the prestigious organization "Latin 2015."

In 2004, Rivera received the “Mario Moreno Cantinflas Award” presented by the city of Los Angeles in recognition of entertainers who "represent the Latino Community with the same humor as the great Cantinflas did" and for her involvement in the community.  In 2007, Rivera received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service Participation.  

Rivera continues to perform live stand-up comedy nationwide and is very proud of her tours to entertain US troops in Iraq.  In addition, she applies her expertise as a motivational speaker to help many non-profit organizations, charitable and educational programs.  In recent years, Rivera has hosted many events, such as award shows, gala’s, fundraisers and festivals.  Shayla says, “My number one goal is to inspire, through laughter and my keynotes.”   Shayla has seen, first-hand, the impact the Latino population and culture has had in all levels of American corporations, organizations and education and is focused on helping make this merge occur as smooth as possible.  She jokes, “We are all the same except different…once we understand this, we will be able to seize the opportunities that lie in our seeming differences.”