Greetings from The National Chair

NSBE Family and Friends,

Technology and fashion have changed quite a bit since the National Society of Black Engineers was founded 43 years ago at Purdue University. A quick look back to the eight-track tapes and platform shoes of 1975 might lead many of my generation to say that things have improved greatly since then. But, in truth, many important matters related to our community haven’t changed much at all.

For example, STEM fields and their produce are still the foundation of prosperity and economic growth in the United States and elsewhere, as they have been for centuries. However, women and most racial and ethnic minorities in this country are still significantly underrepresented in most of those fields, especially in engineering.

Across the U.S., the racial discrimination reflected in wealth, employment, educational, healthcare and other disparities, as well as in the treatment of African Americans by the criminal justice system, is as prevalent now as it was in 1975.

The problem that motivated our founding “Chicago Six,” an alarmingly low retention rate of African Americans in engineering bachelor’s degree programs, has eased, but not enough to change the basic needs that underlie NSBE. Black engineering students and younger aspiring engineers still crave academic and emotional support provided by their peers and mentors — “the NSBE family,”— and they still feel a great need to stay connected to their communities and “give back.”

Yes, engineering can be a daunting discipline, but for those who master this skillset, the reward is great. Our founders knew we would make it through challenges together, whether those challenges are in school or back at home where we strive to elevate our families and community. Think of the tens of thousands of former students now in the workplace who credit the Society for their success. As a practicing mechanical systems engineer for Pratt & Whitney and a graduate student at the University of Iowa, I count myself as one of those success stories. The NSBE family helped give me the strength needed to earn my engineering degrees and more.

NSBE has accomplished many great things as a student-led organization, but there is much more that we can and will do!

Over this NSBE year, I will look for all NSBE members to exemplify the words “culturally responsible” of our mission statement and be mindful of how they bind us to African peoples around the globe. Each of us, NSBE leaders in particular, must vow to be more present in the activities that will move our Society forward and help advance black people as a whole. And to be clear, “Everyone in NSBE is a leader or on their way to becoming one.

To achieve our goals, we must activate our membership and leadership, and sharpen our technical skills for the betterment of ourselves and others. That means developing a culture in which every NSBE member is responsible for the success of our organization, each other and our community.

We must make better use of data, metrics and best practices to improve the implementation of our ideas and reach the full potential of our unique organizational structure.

We must refine our plan to reach our strategic goal, which is to lead the U.S. to graduate 10,000 Black Engineers annually, with bachelor’s degrees, by 2025. Full involvement of all NSBE chapters is critical to this effort, and our new outreach to them from the national and regional levels will include specific benchmarks for success.

We must align our finances and resources more closely with our strategy to focus on programs that foster Social, Academic and Technical engagement.

Finally, we must hone our messaging to elevate NSBE’s brand and gain greater access to the decision-making table in academia, industry and government.

Sending a Message. Activating the Society. Journeying to 2025 and beyond. Increasing Operational efficiency. Making Relevant finance/resource decisions. We call this making a “MAJ-OR change” in NSBE.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve our Society this year, and I look forward to working with you to build on our past greatness and boost NSBE to new heights.

Forward to 10K,

Niasia T. Williams
2018–19 National Chair
National Society of Black Engineers