National Society of Black Engineers gives representation to students

Just a few months after its start at California Baptist University, the National Society of Black Engineers CBU chapter has already begun making its mark on campus.

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the United States and has more than 600 student chapters committed to supporting and increasing the number of Black engineers.

NSBE makes history as one of the first on-campus clubs supporting students of color in a specific major — a predominantly white major — at CBU. In the United States, white people make up 71.1% of all engineers, while Black men make up 3.2% and Black women 1.6% of engineers.

“I believe that the creation of supportive environments for minority college students is a crucial step toward changing the current narrative,” said Dr. Robert Shields, associate professor of computer information technology and adviser of CBU’s NSBE chapter. “Statistics show that minority college students persist —  continue in college from term to term — at lower rates than the majority population. 78 percent for white students versus 66 percent for minority students in 2019.”

The vision of bringing a chapter to the university was introduced by Vanessa Roaché, sophomore biomedical engineering major and NSBE president.

“I had actually been a part of NSBE since I had been in high school, so when I came here, it was weird to me that there was no NSBE, and so I was actually asked to start it by the president of BSU,” Roaché said.

For Roaché, her high school chapter of NSBE elevated her dream and showed the possibility of being a successful Black engineer. Now, the CBU chapter aims to support Black engineers at CBU in particular and give the same optimism Roaché gained through NSBE to others.

“If I would’ve not been in that club during freshman year, I would’ve not been an engineer at all,” Roaché said.

She found a community and created one for others to feel welcomed and safe. The chapter has now been professionally established and is celebrating the excellence of its members by heading to its first-ever convention in Anaheim from March 23-27. 

Despite the success of the club, it did not escape some negative reactions from the student population.

“When I presented my club in front of the entire freshman engineering population, there was a lot of discourse in the audience about, ‘Is this OK?’” Roaché said.

However, Roaché said that the College of Engineering has been supportive throughout the process.

Even with the discourse that has surrounded the chapter, she is optimistic about its growth and the greatness it is expected to bring to campus. In terms of numbers, the chapter is very community-based, and even though the club is committed to supporting Black students, it is open to all students on campus.

“It’s quite small now, only five or six members occasionally,” Roaché said. “They see that this is going to be a big deal for CBU and I think they’re very excited about it.”

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