When David Temeng was a first-year student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), there was a very limited amount of African American students in the history of UNH mechanical engineering who had graduated from the program.
Now, there are at least four mechanical engineering students of color, and current engineers of color attribute the current increase of students in the program to the UNH chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) — an organization that aims to add diversity and cultural awareness to the field of engineering.
“We are making sure our members are equipped with all the resources it takes to maximize their engineering degree,” Curtis Linton said. During the weekly meetings members go over resumes, LinkedIn accounts, graduate schools, research, scholarships, or have guest speakers from the field. It also provides a science, technology, engineering and math community for people of color.
“Most of us are the only black person in our classes but coming to this organization makes us feel more welcomed within my major,” Linton said.
Kae Duby from the UNH Interoperability Lab came to talk about career advice in the science, technology, engineering and math fields and possible undergraduate positions for students at the organization’s last meeting. The rest of the time was left for student questions were students asked about things like interview etiquette, LinkedIn summaries and how to negotiate a fair salary.
According to the national chapter’s website, NSBE’s mission is to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.
“We recite that at the beginning of every meeting because we want to reiterate and reinforce what we are here for,” Jonathan Cooper, a senior bioengineering and senator of the organization, said.
The organization also does a lot to fulfill their mission statement within the community. This year the group founded junior NSBE chapters in Portsmouth and Dover and are working on developing other chapters in the Manchester, Lowell and Lawrence area. In the junior chapter the organization focuses on reaching “out to young kids and show them the opportunities stem can present to them and the fun that stem is. It is not some big scary monster that a lot of people see it but instead as fun and door opening” said Linton.
The group serves and mentors and introduces science, technology, engineering, and math activities to young students.
“One thing young kids of color should know is that they have a place to go where they are accepted, they have a place to go where they can excel academically, and they also have a place to go where there are people that are very similar to them, that are willing and able to support them in whatever they decide to do,” Oneil Smith-Elias, the treasurer of NSBE, said.
In addition to providing an important sense of community locally, the group also gains regional and national support by attending regional and national NSBE conferences, which some members attend every year.
Students in the organization say their participation in NSBE ties directly into their sense of identity here at UNH.
“It’s really inspiring to go to these conferences and be in a room full of people just like you, who want to help you,” Cooper said.
The conference has guest speakers round table events, career help and ends with a career fair with very influential people from the science, technology, engineering, and math fields such as Google, Uber and Sony.
NSBE is celebrating its tenth year on campus. Donna Frank founded the organization at UNH because, according to Temeng, she felt UNH lacked a community in science, technology, engineering and math. Over the past 10 years the group has grown from a small graduate student organization to a larger undergraduate community. The organization only hopes to grow more and further increase the impact it has on its members.