Just a few months ago, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter at California Baptist University looked ahead with uncertainty at their next steps and their future growth. Today, the chapter is making a name for the university at major levels.
The CBU chapter of NSBE has seen success since its inception in August 2021. Expanding from three members to 30 in only a little over six months, the club competed at a regional level “hackathon,” the 48th National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim, Calif., and placed second against schools including Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley.
NSBE is a national organization dedicated to uplifting and increasing the number of Black engineers. It has 600 active chapters and more than 24,000 members across the country. CBU joined the list last year.
The CBU chapter was founded by Vanessa Roaché, junior biomedical engineering major. As a high school student, she was motivated to pursue engineering thanks to spaces that uplift and represent communities like her own.
When Roaché first came to CBU from Maryland, she said it was a culture shock as she sat in engineering classes where, many times, she was the only Black student. She looked to cultivate spaces where students could feel welcomed and represented.
“Some people just want a community of people that look like them,” Roaché said. “They wanted a space to study with people who understand them.”
Black engineers make up roughly 5% of the entire field, according to data from the National Science Foundation. For Black engineering students like Roaché, outlets like NSBE have continued to helping her grow her potential in the field.
“When I was in high school, I was in NSBE and that type of environment really raised me up to be the person I am today — a leader — and to know what I’m doing academically, not just randomly getting put into the engineering world without having a clue what I’m doing,” Roaché said. “So I wanted to extend that same type of opportunity.”
Roaché also said she has been grateful for the support from the College of Engineering, which has allowed them to travel to two conventions in the last year.
They are now preparing to head to NSBE’s 49th National Convention from March 22-26 in Kansas City, where they will continue connecting and cultivating their passion for engineering.
“To see the type of friendships and family that I’ve made, everyone in NSBE is like my family in some way now and for years to come,” Roaché said.
“Momentum is the word, and it’s just so amazing just how God really brought the right people into this club,” said Dr. Robert Shields, associate professor of computer information technology and adviser of CBU’s NSBE chapter.
Chapter members from CBU are now preparing to take their passion of engineering to open a pre-college initiative at a local high school in the desert allowing younger Black generations get involved in NSBE and engineering.
“I felt like we needed to do more and so the biggest part of giving back to the community, I feel like is to raise up the younger generation,” Roaché said. “[In] fall of 2023 there will be a new chapter at Adelanto High School in Victorville.”
Students within NSBE have not only found a spot for representation, but also a space for belonging as they continue to create strong bonds with one another.
“It feels like a family,” said Adonai Pearson, senior mechanical engineering major. “I think every one of us here are like brothers and sisters who try to accomplish greater things in life, and it’s something that I don’t want to miss.”