NSBE50 Recap

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Exceeding the attendance goal by more than 3,000 participants was only one of many causes for
celebration by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at its 50th Annual Convention
(#NSBE50), in March. More than 18,000 collegiate and K–12 students; STEM-educated
professionals; corporate, government and nonprofit recruiters and executives; local and
regional community leaders; local government officials, including Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens,
who is an engineer and a former member of NSBE; and others, gathered for the convention at
the Georgia World Congress Center, in Atlanta, March 20–24, 2024 — making it the largest
event by attendance in NSBE’s 49-year history, by a wide margin.


NSBE, today, is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States,
with 650 chapters and more than 22,000 members in the U.S. and abroad, committed to
advancing the Society’s mission: “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black
engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

Rooted in DEI
Equity and inclusion are at NSBE’s root. The 134 engineering students from across the U.S. who
gathered at Purdue University to establish the National Society of Black Engineers, in April 1975,
were part of a generation of African Americans who were frustrated by the unmet goals of the
Civil Rights Movement. Their objective was to create a national organization to address the very
low enrollment and retention of Black engineering students in the country, but their goal was to
achieve social justice by working toward equity in STEM education and STEM hiring; to
empower Black communities with greater knowledge and proficiency in STEM.
The 50th Annual Convention — and its theme, “Engineering CommUNITY” — mirrored the
vision of NSBE’s six founders and the diverse supporters who helped them actualize it. As the
“anti-woke movement” surged in Florida and other states last fall, the Society’s leadership, after
weeks of thoughtful deliberation and passionate debate, unified to announce the relocation of
the event to Atlanta from its long-slated original venue in Orlando. The decision was perilous in
terms of logistics and planning, but it prioritized participant safety and the ability to offer a
quality convention experience that reflected NSBE’s commitment to DEI.


Speakers at the event’s opening press conference on Thursday, March 21, beginning with NSBE
Convention Planning Committee Chair Destinee Cartner, celebrated the historic turnout in
Atlanta that resulted from that decision.


“The theme of this event is Engineering CommUNITY, a creative phrase that captures NSBE’s
purpose of Black community empowerment through STEM knowledge and proficiency, and also
spotlights the importance of a unified effort to advance NSBE’s mission, which is “to increase
the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed
professionally and positively impact the community” said Carter, who is a bioengineering and
biomedical engineering student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “All of us in this room
have a vital part to play in this CommUNITY.”

“Orlando’s loss is our gain,” said Mayor Dickens during his remarks


In his press conference remarks, NSBE’s National Executive Board chair, Avery Layne, a Ph.D.
student in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, spoke of the progress the
Society has made and the continuing challenges it faces.
“Nine years ago, we set a goal to move the number of new Black Engineers produced in the U.S.
to 10,000 annually by 2025. Only 3,500 Black candidates nationwide received engineering
bachelor’s degrees that year. Today, the number has grown to 6,100. But…those 6,100 Black
graduates are only 4.7% of the total number of engineering bachelor’s degree recipients,” said
Layne. “Our goal is parity with our percentage of the U.S. population, which is 13.6%. So, clearly,
we have a long way to go.”


Later that day, at the Thursday General Session, Layne announced one of the actions NSBE is
taking to continue its mission in the face of increasing opposition. The Society’s newly
established is supporting NSBE members pursuing engineering or engineering-related degrees
in states that have passed anti-DEI laws impacting higher education.


“Since 2023, 65 anti-DEI bills have been introduced in this country. Eight have become law.
What we are witnessing is the systemic dismantling of programs, policies and practices that
foster a sense of belonging on college campuses for students with minoritized identities,” said
NSBE Chief Executive Officer Janeen Uzzell, at the press conference. “We believe these
intentional efforts are being used to stifle the collective drive toward equity and justice in our
educational system.


“Now, more than ever, organizations such as NSBE are needed to support students, from K–12
through college, in the areas where states like Florida, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota,
Tennessee, and Utah have severed resources,” Uzzell said.
Inspiration, Information, Career Development, Training
The scores of events on the four-day Convention agenda catered to the interests and needs of
aspiring and practicing STEM professionals from elementary school students to veteran technologists, managers and executives in the workplace. Among the many highlights were:

A wide-ranging Q&A with NASA Astronaut Victor Glover that captivated NSBE pre-
collegiate and collegiate members and others at the Saturday General Session. Glover,
an African American, is scheduled to pilot NASA’s Orion spacecraft on the Artemis II
mission to orbit the Moon as early as September 2025.

Engagement of thousands of NSBE students and professionals with more than 400 top
employers and higher education recruiters at the Annual Convention Career Fair.

Appearances by the four remaining members of NSBE’s founding “Chicago Six,” who
were together in the same rooms for the first time since their graduation from Purdue
University nearly five decades earlier; and a “NSBE Origins” workshop, presented by the
founders’ archival research team, that provided convention participants with firsthand
accounts from the charter members of the organization, and a comprehensive first look,
for many, at the diverse collaboration of students, industry executives and higher
education faculty and administrators that made NSBE possible.
NSBE’s mission statement came later, in 1987–89, but NSBE founder Anthony Harris
reported during Origins that the tagline he and his colleagues wrote for the organization
was “Dedicated to a Better Tomorrow.”

Technical and science competitions, such as a VEX Robotics Competition sponsored by
Target Corporation and a FIRST LEGO League Challenge sponsored by Apple, for NSBE Jr.
members.

Multiple events hosted by Boeing, among them a Flight Competition for NSBE collegiate
members; a Leadership Roundtable discussion with a panel of corporate managers and
executives, for NSBE Professionals members; and an Explorer Technical Innovation
Competition, where NSBE Jr. members presented projects that showed their boundless
talent and brainpower. CleanO2, a carbon-capturing device for home use,
“demonstrated an 83% reduction in CO2 levels,” according to the report by the
development team, NSBE Jr. members Ruby Ramirez and Ulysses Zavala.

A high-energy Black STEM Experience event, sponsored by Amazon, on Friday evening,
March 22, which used a game show format, music and other entertainment to enlighten
attendees about the state of Black America in STEM and to show what a more inclusive
STEM culture can look and feel like.

A report by NSBE CEO Janeen Uzzell about NSBE’s leadership work with the 50k
Coalition, a group formed by NSBE, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
(SHPE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the American Indian Science and
Engineering Society (AISES) to reshape the engineering landscape. The coalition has met
the “audacious” goal it set in 2015: to lead the U.S. to increase the number of Black,
Brown and women engineering bachelor’s degree graduates produced annually in the
nation from 30,000 to 50,000 by 2025 — five years ahead of schedule.

The culminating NSBE Golden Torch Awards ceremony, on Saturday evening, March 23,
emceed by famed actor and musician Malcolm-Jamal Warner. The ceremony included
awards to individuals and organizations in 18 categories for their work that advanced
NSBE’s mission, and a special NSBE Lifetime Membership presentation to Astronaut
Glover. A full list of the NSBE Golden Torch Awards honorees is below.
Announcement of NSBE’s Chapters of the Year and 2024-25 national officers immediately
followed the Golden Torch Awards onstage. Ronald Williford Jr. will lead the Convention
Planning Committee for NSBE’s 51st Annual Convention, to be held in Chicago in March 2025,
the culmination of NSBE Gold, the Society’s yearlong 50th anniversary celebration.