Engineering the Future and Promoting Diversity

Winter 2013 | Article by Alex Chasick

Engineering the Future and Promoting DiversityThis October, the Tulane chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) hosted “Engineering the Future,” an academic expo designed to encourage local middle and high school students of color to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. NSBE members presented and demonstrated experiments in several STEM fields and spoke with students and parents about the benefits of pursuing STEM disciplines.

“We are really encouraged by the excitement of the students and their parents,” says Olasehinde Owoseni, graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering and last year’s NSBE president. “We intend to make this a recurring event to include more STEM disciplines and ultimately help to build future leaders in various STEM fields.”

The Engineering the Future event is another achievement for a revitalized NSBE that until recently had lay dormant since the elimination of several engineering programs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“Before Katrina, the School of Engineering had a really active NSBE chapter that was instrumental in attracting minority students to Tulane and making the atmosphere very welcoming,” says Nicholas Altiero, Dean of the School of Science and Engineering (SSE). The NSBE chapter, a broad selection of engineering programs, and a dual-degree partnership with Xavier University fostered a welcoming climate for African-American students in engineering, says Altiero.

After Katrina, several engineering departments were eliminated and NSBE membership and activity decreased. When Owoseni arrived at Tulane, he set out to resurrect the Tulane NSBE chapter. The rebuilding began last year with a NSBE-sponsored networking event with engineers, professors, and industry representatives. The event was a success and allowed all interested SSE students—not just NSBE members—the opportunity to ask questions of professionals in their fields and make valuable contacts.

This year, SSE sponsored several NSBE members’ attendance at the national NSBE conference in Indianapolis. Owoseni says the conference featured a number of interesting talks and presentations and charged attendees to further the organization’s mission: “To increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.”

The Tulane NSBE members have taken this responsibility seriously. They are recruiting new members and planning more events—a career development workshop is on tap this semester—and with their efforts and the support of Dean Altiero and other Tulane faculty, they are making SSE a more diverse and welcoming school.

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