A Convention in Indiana Inspires UCR Engineering Students to Keep Their Eyes on the Prize

UC Riverside students meet with African American engineering students from around the nation

Dean Reza Abbaschian stands with members of the National Society for Black Engineers

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — A delegation of students from the Bourns College of Engineering earned honors and awards for service and leadership at the national convention of the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) in Indianapolis, Ind., March 27-31. They also discovered some inspiration.

The UCR chapter was honored for the successful implementation of its program to ensure that African-American engineering students at BCOE persist to graduation.

“These conventions are definitely life changing,” said Roslyn Womble, a graduating senior in mechanical engineering and the president of the chapter. “We took three freshmen and one transfer student because they will be the foundation of the future of the organization. Seeing hundreds – thousands – of black engineers with the same mission and striving for the same thing is so amazing. It motivates you and gives you strength to say, ‘You know, I can do this.’ ”

BCOE Dean Reza Abbaschian participated in a dean’s round table discussion about retention of African-American students and joined the student delegation for dinner.

“I came away from the convention with renewed enthusiasm for our efforts to engage African-American students in STEM education, where they are seriously underrepresented,” said Abbaschian. “It was very clear to me that our students have developed into exceptional leaders and role models for their peers and underclass students at the college. They have raised the bar for future students whom I am confident will maintain this high standard of achievement, leadership, and professionalism.”

The NSBE chapter offers mentorship and support to its 38 members. Upperclassmen and alumni are asked to serve as role models, advisors, and motivators. The goal is to make sure students are graduating with scholarships, in leadership roles, with job offers, or going to one of the top engineering schools. And it’s working.

Roslyn Womble has accepted a full-time position as a process engineer at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Dallas, Texas. She will begin this summer after she earns her B.S. in mechanical engineering. She interned at Raytheon’s El Segundo, Calif., facilities during the past three summers.

Demitri Wilright, an electrical engineering major, has chosen his leadership role with the group over athletics. He quit the track team to focus his time on NSBE. “I realized after last year’s convention that I really wanted to give back,” Wilright said. “It’s been an amazing and rewarding experience.”

Both Womble and Wilright won awards at the conference. They credit BCOE and its Professional Development Officer Jun Wang with much of the success of NSBE and other student professional organizations.

“Jun does an amazing job of being sure of making sure we have everything we need,” Womble said. “Without him, I don’t know what we would do. His door is always open for us to come and talk to him.”

Dr. Ernest Levister, vice chair of the BCOE Council of Advisors and long-time advocate and supporter of STEM education for African-American students, said: “The need for organizations like NSBE is more important than ever. Education is the key to American competitiveness, and our nation is falling behind. Fewer young people are selecting STEM study paths despite the increase global demand for technological workers. To keep engineering and scientific jobs in the United States, and ensure America maintains its leadership, we need to inspire a new generation of Americans to pursue STEM careers. One way to do so is to spotlight black role models who are rising stars in these fields.”

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