C/O McMaster Daily News

National Society of Black Engineers increases representation and supports for Black students in academia

Addressing anti-Black racism has been an urgent need for increased equity for Black students and professionals across academia, especially in traditionally white male dominated fields like engineering.

To tackle one of these barriers in education, the National Society of Black Engineers, McMaster Chapter has launched an annual entrance scholarship for Canadian Black students entering the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster.

All incoming first-years who self-identify as Black students, demonstrate strong leadership and have positively contributed to their community will be eligible for the award. The scholarship will provide each recipient with $2,500, along with a position on the NSBE executive team.

All incoming first-years who self-identify as Black students, demonstrate strong leadership and have positively contributed to their community will be eligible for the award.

The NSBE is a national student-run organization that aims to increase the number of Black engineers who excel both academically and professionally, while demonstrating valuable leadership to make a difference in their community. The NSBE team also includes other engineering graduates and professionals.

Founded in 1971, the society has over 31,000 members that span over 600 active chapters in Canada, the United States and other countries around the globe. They provide academic excellence programs, social connections, leadership opportunities, additional scholarships and career networking to support Black students in engineering.

The McMaster chapter is spear-headed by an executive team of McMaster engineering students. The current president is Feyisayo Enuiyin, a chemical engineering student in her final year. The chapter’s aim is to provide Black students with academic support, professional development and networking opportunities.

NSBE McMaster Chapter President Feyisayo Enuiyin C/O Emmanuel Amike

“For many Black students from underprivileged communities, they don’t think engineering is a space for them,” said Enuiyin. “This scholarship was created for students who didn’t even know they wanted to study engineering. It creates hope for students to show they are going to a school that supports them.”

“For many Black students from underprivileged communities, they don’t think engineering is a space for them,” said Enuiyin.

The NSBE McMaster Chapter’s goal is to raise $62,500 for the award. The number of scholarships will be dependent on the funds raised. If they exceed their goal, they will provide more scholarships. They are currently accepting donations, with hopes that this award will inspire and encourage more Black students to apply to McMaster Engineering. 

Enuiyin explained that the scholarship aims to provide more than financial assistance the award will also create a larger scale for representation, further showing Black students that institutions like McMaster actually care about them. 

“Once I was able to feel that McMaster, including the staff and faculty, really supports me, it made me feel more confident because I know that I go to a community that has my back,” said Enuiyin.

“Once I was able to feel that McMaster, including the staff and faculty, really supports me, it made me feel more confident because I know that I go to a community that has my back,” said Enuiyin.

To Enuiyin, this representation within the university at large, especially in academia, is important because it creates confidence.

“It creates a sense of self awareness so that when you step into a place and you see people like you doing what you aspire to do, it gives you encouragement and motivation to know that you can do that too… When you feel represented in a space, like in an atmosphere of a room, you don’t think about complexion. It doesn’t even cross your head,” said Enuiyin.

“When you feel represented in a space, like in an atmosphere of a room, you don’t think about complexion. It doesn’t even cross your head,” said Enuiyin. 

Enuiyin expressed gratitude towards the Faculty of Engineering for supporting the NSBE McMaster Chapter and said that the scholarship is a step in the right direction.

“[The scholarship] will help us move towards a more inclusive environment where a range of perspectives leads to better insights and innovation,” stated Professor Iswhar K. Puri, dean of engineering, in a McMaster Daily News Article. 

Other efforts for inclusion by McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering include the recent launch of The Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Momentum Fellowships. These fellowships were created in collaboration with faculties at the University of Waterloo, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, Queen’s University and Western University.

These fellowships will provide Indigenous and Black recipients of the award each with $25,000 over the span of four years to support them with their graduate studies and engineering research.

Similar to the NSBE scholarship, the IBET doctoral fellowships were launched with the hope to reduce the financial barriers experienced by Black and Indigenous students. 

These efforts for inclusion are paired with McMaster’s announcement of a new commitment to Black academic excellence, such as the commitment to hire a cohort of up to 12 Black faculty members. This is the first initiative under the new Strategic Equity and Excellence Recruitment and Retention program, which is part of McMaster’s larger equity, diversity and inclusion strategy.

“It’s not just about being Black or being in engineering. It’s bigger than that… It’s about people.  When one individual progresses, the whole community progresses,” said Enuiyin. 

Other efforts at McMaster include the development of a yearly bursary of $800 in perpetuity for Black students with financial need in the McMaster Health Sciences program. The bursary organizers include McMaster University and Mohawk College alumni and are currently also fundraising.

When asked what else academic institutions can do to alleviate barriers for Black students, Enuiyin highlighted the importance of outreach programs along with financial assistance. These outreach programs should be delivered in underprivileged communities, especially for high school students.

“When students are already in universities, it is hard to change their perspectives. [By starting in high school], you can start to show them options as to what they have,” explained Enuiyin. 

When discussing how McMaster community members should view this scholarship, Enuiyin highlighted its importance on our society as a whole. 

“It’s not just about being Black or being in engineering. It’s bigger than that… It’s about people.  When one individual progresses, the whole community progresses,” said Enuiyin.

Donations for the scholarship funds are currently being accepted on the NSBE McMaster’s iFundMac website. 

Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.