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Detroit, April 02, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- It’s been 24 years since the National Society of Black Engineers last brought its Annual Convention to Detroit. This year’s iteration, NSBE’s 45th Annual Convention (#NSBE45), held in the Motor City, was a record-breaker, with an all-time high attendance of more than 14,000 and a highest-ever number of exhibitors, nearly 350, at the event’s Career Fair.
At the press conference for the event, held at the convention venue, Cobo Center, Detroit city officials and NSBE officers and staff discussed the Society’s important place in the nation’s present and future.
NSBE National Chair Niasia T. Williams spent five years in the Flint and Detroit, Michigan, areas as a preteen and teenager. She’s now a graduate student in STEM education at the University of Iowa and a mechanical systems engineer at Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Company, as well as NSBE’s highest-ranking officer. But she says she never saw a black female engineer until her undergraduate years at Rutgers University.
“One of the things that’s important, and one of the things that I hope we’ll be able to utilize at this conference, is to make sure that students and people within this community actually see themselves as engineers, technologists or STEM-literate folks,” Williams said. “We know that the next economy is going to be technology-based, STEM-based, and if we are not prepared within our community to engage in that, we will lose our opportunity.”
Alexis Wiley, chief of staff for the City of Detroit, began by speaking about her undergraduate background.
“I was very, very active in my college chapter of [the National Association of Black Journalists], and we had an equally as active a chapter of NSBE,” Wiley said. “I know how critical this organization is in terms of giving our people a path forward in a career like engineering, where many people who look like me and look like you are not as well represented.”
“NSBE established a bold new goal to nearly triple the number of Black Engineers the nation’s colleges and universities produce, from 3,500 to 10,000 annually, by 2025,” said Karl W. Reid, Ed.D., NSBE’s executive director. “…How are we doing? We’re doing great. Twenty-eight percent more African Americans are earning degrees in engineering than we were when we started the strategy in 2015. So that’s a thousand additional Black Engineers being deployed in academia and in industry than in 2015. But we have a long way to go.”
“Why is this all important?” Dr. Reid continued. “…NSBE is really about ‘Unlocking Potential, Cultivating Confidence and Changing Lives.’ That’s really what we’re all about…because diversity matters.”
Nikolai P. Vitti, Ed.D., general superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, praised NSBE’s partnership with the district through the Society’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program, and he told the gathering about the district’s plans to remake the city’s schools.
“We’ve set out with an aggressive agenda to improve education in Detroit, with a focus on STEM," Dr. Vitti said, and with plans such as hands-on teaching of science in and labs for pre-K through 12th graders; alignment of math curricula to grade-level expectations; placement of robotics clubs in every elementary and middle school; increasing the number and diversity of excellent math and science teachers; free college education for high-achieving high school students; and the establishment of a new engineering school in the heart of Detroit, in partnership with the University of Michigan, a high school “focused not only on engineering but social justice,” he said. “We want to develop the next generation of engineers but engineers that also will give back to the community.”
Anthony B. Murphy, national chair of NSBE Professionals, likewise emphasized the importance of having engineers positively impact the community.
“My job is to maintain contact with thousands of engineers who are into their careers…and try to convince them to come back, to give back, to stay connected to this great mission, to continue to mentor not just the collegiate students but also to go back into the (elementary, middle and high schools) and teach individuals what engineers actually do,” Murphy said. “…As NSBE Professionals, it is our job to make sure that we’re mentoring the next generation of engineers, the next generation of leaders…that we’re coming back with the intent of saying ‘You can do it. Stick with it…. You can achieve what we have achieved.’ ”
Alana Tremble-Winfrey, chair of NSBE’s 2019 Convention Planning Committee, welcomed media to the event, and Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, welcomed the convention attendees to Detroit.
NSBE National Secretary Julius Page served as moderator of the event.
Yvette Watson National Society of Black Engineers 703-837-9919 email@example.com