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Karl Reid, stepping into the role of executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE, www.nsbe.org), compares the need for more American STEM grads to the push for science education that followed the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957. And he intends to play a role in reversing the national slide in technology and innovation.

Although the total number of black engineers is increasing, African Americans’ share of this year’s total 93,000 new grads has declined to its lowest point in years, to 4.2 percent, Reid notes. Only one percent of African American ninth graders earn STEM degrees within ten years, and only four percent of all ninth graders.

Reid plans to address that issue with specific new programs to extend NSBE’s base membership and seek new opportunities. He plans to apply metrics to determine which NSBE programs are succeeding and build on those. “My mantra is ‘what’s the so what?’” he says. “By finding a North Star to guide us, we can set a course. We can measure the impact of what we’re doing, and build a strategy based on the outcome. We need to do a better job of answering the ‘so what’ question for our 30,000 members.”