The National Society of Black Engineers is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States. NSBE was founded on Purdue University's campus in the 1970s when a small group of students called the "Chicago Six" took on the initiative to improve the recruitment and retention of black engineering students on campus. Now NSBE has become a powerhouse engineering organization on the high school, undergraduate, and professional levels. NSBE's mission is "to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community." NSBE offers its members leadership training, professional development activities, mentoring opportunities, career placement services and more. The Miami University chapter is relatively new chapter that has been growing faster than anticipated. With close to 50 members, they host volunteering events such as A Walk for Education as well as sending members to the national convention where they gain networking and job opportunities. NSBE has become a welcoming community that serves as both an academic and personal support system for its members.
A Student Organization at Miami University
Ndeye: Hi everyone, we’re excited to have you here today. My name is Ndeye ‘Guisse, and I am the current president of the Miami University Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.
Devante: Hello my name’s Devante Johnson, I am a senior engineering major here at Miami University. I actually am a part of the founding members of the chapter here at Miami University here to just kind of talk about my experiences and my 4 years in it.
Cam: My name is Cameron Herring, I am just a general body member of the National Society of Black Engineers. I am also a senior software engineering major here at Miami University.
Ndeye: Alright, so we’re just here, it's gonna be pretty much very conversational, we’re just gonna tell you a little bit about NSBE and a little bit about the history and what brought us here today. So I guess I’ll start. NSBE was founded around the late 1975 by six young men known as the Chicago 6. It’s been through several names from the Black Society of Engineers to the Society of Black Engineers to what we now know as the National Society of Black Engineers. In the late 1960s about 80% of the black freshman who entered engineering programs dropped out and so this raised a huge red flag and these Chicago 6 took on the initiative to really increase the number of black engineers who graduated and were successful in the long term. The President at that time, Anthony Harnes he sent a letter to every accredited engineering program in the country at that time to ask for national support in order to support NSBE , through its mission. This was about 288 schools, so that just gives you a little bit of, you know, a gauge for how devoted and how serious they were. So NSBE’s mission is to
All: Increase the number of culture responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
Ndeye: Yeah I think we should just talk a little bit about the convention now like you know you’re a part of NSBE but and it’s really local here at Miami and then you get these opportunities to go to maybe the regional conventions and especially the national convention which I mean the last couple of years we had one in Tennessee and last year was in California and this year we are preparing to go to Boston so I think all of these conventions and when you go there and you look around and you see people that look just like you in suits prepared for interviews like networking and being professional individuals gives you the sense of like this is this is this is like I fit in well here you know and I think that’s when key things like representation matters to an extent that without it you really don’t know like if you belong in a certain field and I think NSBE really gives you that chance to feel comfortable and feel prepared and NSBE at the conventions I think they do a lot of cool things that are important
Ndeye: Yea important to foster creativity and like just through their workshops like for example they have what they call the hackathon and that like where people can sign up when you get there they’ll give you some sort of issue that’s going around in the IT or software engineering department and the contestants will have to solve this issue like on their feet, I think the competition goes on for like 4 to 6 hours but and you spend that entire day finding a solution for this issue and I think that really fosters um creativity and innovation because rarely do they just give you the answer you just really have to work hard and I figured I think that’s one of the reasons why NSBE really does force the members to be creative members and at the same time giving them a sense of belonging
Cam: So yea just to talk about that she kinda really hit a lot of main points especially in terms of like representation as NSBE is a national convention you can see that engineers from all over the country from different colleges and different walks of life are all coming together at this convention where people are exchanging ideas people are going to workshops together people are working with working efficiently with each other and competitions like the hackathon the thing that I think was great was NSBE has a lot of corporate and professional partners that come out to these conventions and do workshops I actually attended one by Google that I thought was really great how they just kinda talked about they basically just talked about creativity within software engineering so they talked about how engineers can use their different skill sets and do different things within their daily lives that actually make them more creative so they had a panel of individuals that talked about the work they do on a daily basis so like one of the main things that really stuck out to me was how they talked about, how they collaborated with each other how they had a very diverse group of individuals who work with each other because when they are bouncing ideas off of each other a lot of the ideas come from very very different places and how they wrap their ideas together is how they make their product really stand out from other products so I think that the national convention does a lot of that for just regular engineering students and so when we come back to our campuses and when we come back you know we have these different project ideas we have these regional and national activities that we participate in and I think those sort of that’s what a representation is we kind of builds us together one of the things we did prior to the convention was or after the convention is we ended up having kind of STEM day kind of a career day part with the university of Cincinnati’s national society of black engineers so we had rooms with different creative events that helped build that representation on the junior level and that kinda on what Tay was talking about a little bit earlier starting people early in those classes is what makes them a lot more effective by getting it to the collegiate level.
Tay: I would say that a good point to where you talk that pipeline that we have connections with NSBE as you have those NSBE juniors you have you PCIs pre college initiative as well as you have your collegiate student as well as you have you professional engineers who go off and work for us after college. And you’re in an actual career you’re still a part of I believe that’s very essential to what NSBE is really all about, is the mentorship of young engineers specifically of African American descent. African Americans are a group of people that are underrepresented in the field itself that makes it challenging for many people. But having that mentorship, having people that you can really relate to on issues, the people that you look up to, it creates a community of support in which people can help elevate each other to a higher standard. To really, you know, sharpen their skills and exchange ideas, creative thoughts, and to really challenge each other to do the best in their field as possible. And I think NSBE is a very common ground. At national conventions, people come together after a long year away from each other and they can reenergize each other, having that sense of companionship. That I know somebody across the seas who looks like me, has similar experiences as me and the kind of same feelings. We all have the same issues working in an environment that’s not normal as well as in a sense of us, but I have that connection and know somebody that has my back and can feed my advice in terms of navigating myself through a system. Especially having that mentorship pipeline of professionals that are there to help young college students, it helps them better prepare themselves for the professional field once they graduate. And really, from my own personal experience, I was able to develop my own mentors through NSBE, people in different areas of engineering, as well as business because NSBE branches out to other fields that relate back to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But having those connections and just having people I can look up to at my time and my days of college, they were my age they had the same exact experiences, the same struggles, and I’m able to use them as a navigation block on how I want to see my life propel once I reach their age. It’s a blueprint already written I front of me that shows me the ropes of how to navigate myself as I advance higher into my collegiate career and into my profession.
Ndeye: I think that just going back to the pre collegiate initiative, NSBE has high school chapters, and in addition to those high school chapters I think a really cool, creative, and unique way that NSBE tries to reach out to these minority students in high school is through what Cam was talking about, a walk for education. It’s like a national initiative that every college, you know different colleges host it every year, and we were lucky enough to host our very first walk for education week. We partnered with the University of Cincinnati and what we basically did was we went around unprivileged neighborhoods and we knocked on doors and handed out pamphlets that had information regarding secondary education. So not only encouraging people to join STEM but encouraging students to go to college. And I think that’s something that, you can’t reach out to these people because they may not have the means, they may not have the idea to go online and look up information about it, so that’s why we go door to door and have conversations with these people and their parents, it was eye opening just to be able to see how much that did. Because once we talked to those students we invited them on a tour to our science fair, which Cam was talking about as well, where we had different experiments in different rooms and the kids were able to play around with the experiments. So I think seeing the turnout and seeing people actually taking advantage of it, the students really do have a passion for it they just need the opportunities so to say. And to be able to open up the doors, to let them know that this is out there for you, it was pretty crucial.
Cam:I can say one of my initial key takeaways from NSBE was the confidence building in NSBE, having confidence in the field is one of the great things that will stimulate creativity and stimulate innovation, to be more of a leader and come up with better ideas…..
Cam: …It’s because you have confidence. One of the things that helped me build my confidence was just having the mentor who is also in NSBE, his name is Jean-Paul, he’s in the same field as me and he’s also a member of Lockheed Martin, and so that sort of pathway that brought me to NSBE was what also brought me to a much more efficient and definitely a much more creative individual, was having much more confidence. And that confidence simply came from having a mentor who looked just like me.
Ndeye: How do you think NSBE is more creative than other organizations?
Cam: One of the first pieces that we have with NSBE that makes us more creative is that we work a lot with African American community as well as the engineering community. And African American representation in the field of engineering is very low, they say on most campuses they can give you significantly low such as 10, 5, 1 percent on most campuses so with that number being so low, you’re looking at an engineering organization or an engineering society doing the same things that other engineering organizations are doing but representative of a very undermined community. So some of the things that we have to deal with would be simply having to do events that don’t involve most of the entire engineering school. With our numbers being low it means that we are marketing to a smaller demographic and at the same time having to learn about another demographic to market to which is the normal side of engineering.
Devonte: I was going to say to I think that it brings two minorities together. I think on a lot of campuses a lot of students aren’t engineering students, engineering in itself if you look at graduation, they have small graduation numbers of students, because it is a very rigorous field of study and on top of that you already have the competitive edge in terms of demographics over students who can barely get through the system of engineering. And like how Cameron said earlier, you have a community of representation that’s already low, and you are doing another thing, making it even lower by being in a field where a lot of those people are not represented in. It is very interesting on how do you market to get people in it because you are working in two things that weeds a lot of people out in terms of participation. And I think it is really cool how we can fuse pop culture, things that start trends along with engineering, and I think NSBE is what makes engineering cool. Instead of engineering seen as the nerdy thing that people do, geeks that sit on the computer all day, they can’t talk to people and don’t have a social life. When I joined NSBE it was completely different, it had some of the coolest engineers I had ever met in my life, these engineers had, and I guess the word is swag, they dressed well, and they talked well. They were very intellectual they knew what they were doing. They knew calculus, they knew chemistry, they knew all the sciences; thermodynamics, they knew everything regarding Ohm’s law, things you would think nerds only know but they were cool. They knew about the hottest artists, music and stuff, and they could relate to a lot of people. They had a life more than just their book smarts. They were well rounded. That’s what I really like about NSBE, is that we make you look cool no matter who you are or what ethnicity, it’s like being a part of an organization that you can make really cool and make people who have no idea what engineering is, want to learn what it is. Being a part of an organization, you can make it look really cool and make people who have no idea what engineering is want to learn what it is.
Cam: And to relate that just a little bit more back to creativity, one of the points he made was how he said that there was engineers that relate to pop culture and different things like that and a lot of times when you see your stereotypical engineer you know they’re you’re nerd or individual who may just sit in front of the computer screen, you’re introverted individual who may not talk much or doesn’t seem to respond too much. But I think one of the great things we do with NSBE is bridging that gap between individuals who are like that and individuals of diverse culture. One of the things we did was NSBE had a basketball tournament, so the basketball tournament was, you know it’s not your average engineering event. But it was catered towards engineering and STEM so therefore you know instead of maybe having a design competition or a panel talking about technology or something engineering or technical related, it was a basketball tournament so with NSBE’s name being on that, with the marketing uses on that, and the fundraising going towards our national trip and doing things more faceted toward engineering is just showing how individuals are being more creative and appealing to multiple markets.
Ndeye: Yeah I agree with both of you guys, I think. I don’t know, I think that overall NSBE does a great job of bringing together a lot of different people’s ideas and it really forces you to be creative socially, professionally and like personally. I think when you bring in all of these aspects you ultimately come out a more professional more confident more driven individual and I think, that’s something, even at Miami we do a good job, no we do a better job, cut that out, we do a great job than a lot of other people when it comes to making sure that people feel confident in an environment that might not be so geared towards you. Yeah thanks, I hope you guys got a lot out of our conversation and learned a little bit more about NSBE and what we do and what impact NSBE has both nationally and locally so NSBE has definitely been instrumental in my umm undergraduate experience, I can’t wait to take it on once I graduate as well.
Devonte: Agreed, Agreed, and I would say that the biggest thing I learned from NSBE is to not be afraid of who you are. I think that’s the number one thing they always kind of in still in you. Is to take pride in terms of cultural, culture, you know, your history your experiences. And to really find confidence in yourself what you can do, that you too can do what other people can no matter what your situation.
All: Well, this was great, my name is Ndeye Guisse, and my name is Devante Johnson, and my name is Cameron Herring, and we want to say thank you for listening for insight.
Categories | Creativity and Innovation
Filetype: MP3 - Size: 16.27MB - Duration: 17:47 m (128 kbps 44100 Hz)