Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘One fire, more fire’: National Society of Black Engineers builds community and provides opportunities for students

The UMass chapter of NSBE is actively campaigning for donations to fund their travel to the national conference
Oghosasere Osunde

The National Society of Black Engineers is a registered student organization at the University of Massachusetts that aims to “increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

Every year, the organization hosts networking sessions, game nights and travel to their national conference, President George Olisedeme-Akpu, a senior mechanical engineering major, and Vice-President Oghosasere “Shawn” Osunde explained.

This academic year, they introduced a professional development series to help students be better prepared for their industrial experiences. “When it comes to conferences and interviews, [we want to] get them ready [and] prepared and just making sure they’re well equipped to go to a career fair, meet a recruiter and get the job [that] they [the members] want,” said Osunde.

He added that the new series involves connecting members of the club to pre-existing resources on campus and helping them network with more experienced students to get advice and learn more about their work.

“We’re also looking forward to having external people come to meet our chapter as well to help us out with the professional development series,” he added.

Oghosasere Osunde

Kaosi Nwosu, a sophomore computer science student, is a new member of the organization. He was motivated to join as they had conferences in the fall and spring, which would allow him to reach out to professionals outside of the University.

“It was an opportunity to get to meet other computer scientists and engineers. It was a very good way to express myself socially. Even as an engineer, as a scientist, I get to see other people who share the same ideas and beliefs as me,” Nwosu said.

For Nwosu, he looks forward to the biweekly meetings as it’s a “chance to get to see people” he doesn’t normally see during the week and can access different resources that are helpful to him.

Nwosu encouraged new students to attend NSBE’s events and meetings as frequently as they can: “[You can] connect with people that are in the club…[you get to] hear from their perspective, how they did the things they did, and, you know, aim for better, essentially.”

Sebastian Alouider, a mechanical engineering major, is another member that just joined the organization. “I grew up in a predominantly white area and I have very little connection [to the Black community], even just in general outside of engineering.

He referenced the killing of George Floyd and how there were very few people outside of his family he could talk to about it. “Finding connection amongst this community is kind of important for me.”

As for the current leaders, they’re looking to improve their recruitment strategies and increase members in the organization. Osunde said, “[We want to make] sure people are more active and giving them the avenue to be active as well. I think that’s something we could definitely do better for the future.”

They’re hoping to do more local outreach work at a variety of educational levels, including high school students, public and private universities, community colleges and any other institutions that are interested and whose students are in need of support.

Osunde is also hoping to reach out to and collaborate with NSBE chapters at other nearby universities to host events. Olisedeme-Akpu added, “seeing as we’re one of the bigger chapters, at least within western Massachusetts, I do believe [we could] have a bigger impact in the community.”

Olisedeme-Akpu went to his first NSBE meeting on Zoom at home in Nigeria, back when campus was closed due to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. He heard a wave of laughter through the speakers and was confused since he was expecting a very formal meeting.

“They were really having a good time interacting and socializing…it was one [of the first] times I [logged] into [a] meeting over zoom [and] didn’t have to carry up this sense of formality. I could, you know, express myself,” he explained.

Oghosasere Osunde

After forming a mentor-mentee relationship with a previous E-Board member, Olisedeme-Akpu decided to join leadership in the RSO: “I decided to join…to give back to an organization [that’s] given so much to me [and to give back to] all the people I met.”

Osunde credited Olisedeme-Akpu for inspiring him to join. He went to his first national conference and got a good sense of the community within the organization.

“I want to make sure that anyone that comes into UMass…finds the help, they need to get direction into where their path starts and how they would like to get that path in their careers. I’ve developed a passion for helping people not be in the confused state that I was in once before, and making sure that they don’t feel isolated in any way,” he explained.

“NSBE membership isn’t contingent upon being a Black engineer,” said Olisedeme-Akpu. He explained that the main theme of this organization is to support Black engineers in whatever field of STEM they choose to develop themselves in, but if “you see Black engineering and you think this is something [you] personally want to support, definitely come by come to a meeting, say hi. Tell us how you can support us and possibly [how] we can support you.”

Osunde also emphasized the sense of community the organization developed. He is one of three Black students in his classes and he’s heard of people in other classes with even fewer. “It’s important for us to be this resource for people to have, especially Black STEM kids, to make sure that they have the resources and they’re connected with the right people that can help them to thrive in whatever space that they’re trying to go into,” he said.

“That’s why I feel that [NSBE is] very important for Black engineers, who are typically the minority in engineering. [Being able to] directly see somebody else in that same space that they’re able to thrive in, [it’s like,] if they can do it, I can do it too,” Osunde added.

Currently, the organization is promoting their Minutefund for support in their travel to the 50th annual convention in Atlanta this March. They’re also looking forward to partnering with various groups on campus, both STEM and non-STEM, like groups in Isenberg.

Interested in more? You can join their GroupMe or follow them on Instagram.

“NSBE introduces you to a community of like-minded, determined [and] goal-oriented engineers, so that’s something I really don’t take for granted,” Osunde said.

Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @mahidhar_sl

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