NSBE Conference Stresses Synergy, Collaboration

The National Leadership Conference of the National Society of Black Engineers was held June 3 to June 6 at the University of Michigan, celebrating the theme, “Synergistic Leadership: Strengthening Our Foundation Through Collaboration.”

From students working together to develop the NSBE’s communications plan, to setting the goal of 10,000 black engineers in the U.S. per year by 2025, the power of student collaboration was emphasized.

[Related: Paying It Forward: How One Doctor Uses Children’s Books to Promote Science Careers]

NSBE’s national chair, Neville Green, a 24-year-old chemical engineering senior at the City University of New York, says, “Students are the visionaries of NSBE. We sit at the board table and make the strategic decisions that shape the future of the organization. NSBE was founded in 1975 by six courageous young men at Purdue University. They started the legacy of the student-led and —governed organization, and today, I and the fellow leaders of NSBE carry that torch with pride.” (Green is shown addressing the conference in the photo, at left.)

Conference speakers included NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D., and David C. Munson Jr., Ph.D., dean of engineering at U-M, who affirmed the university’s and its president’s commitments to diversity.

More than a quarter of the 181 participants at this year’s conference are members of NSBE Professionals, a 7,000-member organization for the technical professionals within NSBE. Mary McWilliams, lead engineer for DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, Ohio, is national chair. She has been a member of NSBE since 1982.

“What inspired me was the professionals, corporate representatives, and collegiate students who embraced my son, who is in high school and a NSBE Jr. member, and talked to him about college choices and majors,” she wrote. “He was able to participate in the workshops and gain additional knowledge as well as establish his own contacts.”

Among the corporate representatives McWilliams mentions was a team from Chevron Corp., NSBE’s premier partner for the conference. Kingsley Ufere, an instrumentation design engineer at Chevron who is originally from Nigeria, provided the closing remarks.

He shared a story from his childhood in Nigeria that illustrated the theme of the conference. On his first day of boarding school, the house master challenged the students to break a thick, Nigerian-style broom.

One by one, unable to break it, the students handed the broom back to the house master. Ufere said, “In our traditional Igbo language he said, ‘A single broomstick is easily broken, but not a hundred in a bundle,’ after which he took the broom, untied it, and started breaking it into pieces.”

Ufere continued, “He explained to us that coming together and collaborating is the beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success. I have held that statement to heart ever since, and I’ve never looked back.”

NSBE was founded in 1975 and is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the United States. It supports and promotes the aspirations of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology. For more information, go to www.nsbe.org.