National Society of Black Engineers
Edward A. Coleman
Stanley L. Kirtley
George A. Smith
John W. Logan Jr.
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The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), was founded in 1975 Purdue University located in West Lafayette, Indiana by six undergraduates and a faculty advisor. It is one of the largest student-run organizations in the United States, with core activities centered on improving the recruitment and retention of Black and other minority engineers, in both academe and industry. NSBE is an organization that provides opportunities for personal and professional success, and remains unmatched by any other organization to date.
NSBE has more than 30,000 members worldwide, with 2,000 elected leadership positions, 18 regional conferences, an annual international conference, and an annual national convention. Since its inception over forty years ago, NSBE has grown to include approximately 310 collegiate student chapters, 99 pre-college programs, and 88 professional chapters with their 6,000 technical members. A professional staff operates NSBE's World Headquarters in Virginia.
In addition, NSBE has a number of corporate partners and affiliations that facilitate its mission and primary directives, which are essentially engineering excellence and community service. NSBE's Board of Corporate Affiliates (BCA) are businesses interested in diversity, and include companies like Chevron Corporation, Boeing, General Motors, Dow, IBM, United Technologies, Dell, all branches of the American Military, DuPont, 3M, Toyota, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, and many other note-worthy industries. With its corporate partners, dedicated students and professionals, NSBE has accomplished more for Black engineering students and working engineers than any other organization in the world. One notable member of this organization is Victor J. Glover. (Astronaut)
When Anthony Harris was an undergraduate student studying engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, he became aware of the alarming attrition rate by minorities, as early as their sophomore year. Determined to fix the leaky pipeline of Black students from freshmen year through graduation and beyond, Harris approached the university's administration about establishing a minority mentoring/networking society in 1971. There was quite a bit of initial resistance, but finally a fledgling Black Society of Engineers (BSE) was founded in 1975 by John Logan, Edward Coleman, George Smith, Stanley Kirtley, Brian Harris, and Anthony Harris (nicknamed 'The Chicago Six'), along with their designated faculty advisor, Arthur Bond. Anthony Harris proposed that the group change its name to the Society of Black Engineers (SBE) in 1976.
In that first year, the organization had grown to 32 schools and 48 students from around the country, all of whom were in attendance at the first National Conference. There were six critical motions that were passed at this 1976 conference:
- The National Symbol was chosen
- A rough draft of the National Constitution was written
- The organization was divided into six geographic regions
- The first National Chairperson, John Carson, was officially elected
- The organization was renamed the Society of Black Engineers (SBE)
- Purdue became the first National Headquarters
Also in 1976, SBE was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Austin, Texas, and became recognized as a tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code. In 1978, SBE gained national exposure by participating in the National Academy of Science conference on "Minorities in Engineering". In 1982, the second National Headquarters was established in Washington, D.C.; a building in Alexandria, Virginia was purchased in 1987 to house the rapidly growing organization. In 1997, SBE had become a significant presence in engineering whereby it was the first minority organization to serve as lead sponsor for National Engineers Week, a premier industry event. The theme then was "Engineers Make a World of Difference", and this distinction for SBE was one of its many milestones. The society changed its name to the National Society of Black Engineers in the year 2000. NSBE's growth continues as the organization has grown to include dozens of international chapters. Today, nearly 20% of NSBE members reside outside the United States and Canada. A larger building in Alexandria was purchased in 2005, and is the current World Headquarters, as opposed to the former National Headquarters.
NSBE's primary mission is "to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community." NSBE offers its members leadership training, professional development, mentoring opportunities, career placement services and more. It is NSBE's goal to expand its mission and vision to as many countries around the world as possible, thereby creating a global network of Black engineers, scientists and technologists that support each other, and the cultures they impact. NSBE also has recently started a campaign that its sole purpose is to graduate 10,000 Black Engineers annually by the year 2025 (Graduate10K.nsbe.org).
NSBE's logo is a modification of the Purdue University SBE logo designed by George Smith. Smith, one of the original NSBE founders, first created the logo in 1974 for the Society of Black Engineers letterhead. To get ideas for an SBE symbol, Smith looked at the logos on the corporate recruiting brochures in his desk drawer. The "Torch" idea came from the Amoco logo, the "Lightning Bolts" were inspired by the Zenith logo, and George chose the SBE capital letter initials after looking at the RCA logo. George Smith's first childhood ambition was to become an artist, while he never pursued a professional art career, his distinctive design continues to be a globally recognized symbol. George was the Chairman of the Society of Black Engineers' Publications Committee. He was also the "cover page artist" for the initial SBE publications. His drawing of the Torch and Lightning Bolts were prominently displayed on the cover of the 1st SBE Cornerstone news magazine which was published in late November 1974.
The torch's green "N" was added in 1976 when the society went national; the red flame symbolizes members' everlasting "burning desire" to achieve success in a competitive society, wherein one must positively affect the quality of life for all people; the yellow lightning bolts represent the striking impact felt by the societies/industries benefitting from member service and intervention.
Structure and governance
NSBE was incorporated in 1976 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is owned and managed by its members. The organization is dedicated to academic and professional success, but more so, the significance of Black engineering students and professionals around the world. NSBE has a dual structure consisting of a national executive board of graduate/undergraduate students, and a professional executive board of career engineers. NSBE has a national advisory board, and is operated by a professional staff of 30 located at their World Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
NSBE is divided into six geographical regions, each operating under the auspices of the parent organization, but with their unique objectives and finances for the year. Each of these regions has a number of student chapters, with governing and leadership personnel who report back to headquarters. The regions each have annually elected members of a regional executive board, with individual senators and professional advisors, all of whom convene yearly at their six regional conferences. Each region has varying numbers of student chapters, each with a mandatory minimum of ten members, with their own unique culture, songs, and slogans. Competitive inter-regional rivalries are key to driving NSBE's program participation, community service, and academic scholarship.
In 1992, NSBE broadened the scope of its activities to include chapters and programs outside of the USA, and established its first international chapter in London, England; the first international summit was held at the newly designated World Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1999, NSBE held the first international conference in Ghana, West Africa, and the first international annual convention was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2010. That same year, NSBE was instrumental in facilitating 28 minority students from St. Lucia matriculating and excelling in baccalaureate engineering programs at several Illinois universities.
NSBE now supports engineering students at dozens of international universities, and offers career development to minority engineers globally. NSBE directives mandate that the same light that flows from the trademark NSBE torch to students and professionals in the United States is also relevant for engineering students in Africa, Europe, South America, Asia, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean. Therefore, the organization is committed to its international outreach activities, and vigorously supports its chapters around the world.
NSBE is committed to more than just academic success abroad, and emphasizes community service as well. In 2013, NSBE officials visited a village in Ghana and assisted engineers there in the design and construction of a superior fresh water pump. With the generous assistance from its BCA, the organizations provides financial support in the form of grants for engineering projects and programs around the world.
NSBE sponsors an annual meeting of 12,000+ attendees, where registered members can avail themselves of professional education courses, personal development seminars, engineering workshops, job fairs, career strategies, motivational speakers, entertainment, and much more. Their largest convention to date was held in 2018, in Pittsburgh, PA [Region II], where they registered over 13,000 attendees. These conventions address/impact the state of engineering, the status of Black engineers in the USA and abroad, emergent technology, industry, and solidarity, all within the particular annual theme determined by the Convention Planning Committee (CPC) Chairs. Every year, thousands of representatives from colleges and universities, NSBE corporate partners, and non-BCA companies alike are in attendance to support, interview, educate, and/or recruit prospective students, new graduates, and technical experts.
The keynote speakers are engineering luminaries from academe, government, and industry, who discuss their own illustrious career paths and advise members as to pitfalls along the way. Past convention keynoters have included the Honorable Shirley Chisholm, Dick Gregory, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kwesi Mfume, and Roland Martin.
Recognitions, scholarships, and awards
NSBE recognizes distinguished achievement and community service in the fields of engineering via the prized Golden T.O.R.C.H. (Technical OutReach and Community Help) Award, which is presented at each annual convention. These awards are endowed through the society, while the student awards are in the form of academic scholarships, which are presented by a number of industries and foundations. Annual scholarship awards are also presented at convention, and range from $500 to $10,500 following a rigorous application process. It is a matter of pride and distinction for each region's chapters to receive a majority of the scholarship awards. In addition to the T.O.R.C.H. and scholarships, NSBE offers cash awards of up to $7,500, acknowledging the highest achieving members in different categories such as lifelong service, technological prowess, academic performance, and entreprenauship. Each of these awardees also receives a GTA (Golden T.O.R.C.H. Award), which is sometimes more valued than the cash prize.
Programs and Events
- Career Fairs
- National Leadership Institute
- Graduate School Fairs
- Technical Research Projects
- Academic Competitions
- Retention Program
- Technical Competitions
- Awards and Prizes
- Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK)
- SEEK is a program geared toward providing a summer camp that focuses on STEM curriculum and competitions, lead by NSBE collegiate and professional members that partake in STEM academia.
- GPA Initiative
- Technical Professionals Programs
- Special Interest Groups
NSBE publishes three magazines for its membership:
- NSBE Magazine, its award-winning, flagship publication that offers feature articles of interest to engineering college students, faculty, and technical experts.
- Bridge Magazine, marketed toward a pre-collegiate, younger audience to pique their interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
- Career Engineer, which offers the latest industry news, cutting-edge technology, and strategies for work-life balance.
The National Chairs
2016–2018 Matthew C. Nelson
2015–2016 Neville Green
2013–2015 Sossena Wood
2012–2013 Calvin A Young III
2010–2012 Calvin Phelps
2009–2010 Stacyann Russell
2008–2009 Stevenson A. Dunn, Jr.
2007–2008 Dr. Darryl A. Dickerson
2006–2007 Ainsley A. Stewart, Jr.
2004–2006 Chanceé Lundy
2003–2004 Mario V. Church
2001–2003 Delano White
2000–2001 Damaune Journey
1998–2000 André Willis
1997–1998 Regenia Sanders
1995–1997 S. Gordon Moore
1994–1995 Carl Conliffe
1993–1994 Kevin Harris
1991–1993 William Gideon, Jr.
1989–1991 David Fleming
1987–1989 Dr. Gary May
1985–1987 Dr. Donna O. Johnson
1984–1985 Karl Reid
1982–1984 Brian K. Sanders
1981–1982 Peter C. Goudeau, Jr.
1980–1981 Carolyn Cooper
1978–1980 Virginia Booth
1977–1978 Richard L. Toler
1976–1977 William R. Johnson
1975–1976 John Carson
1974–1975 Anthony Harris (Acting)
- Glossary of engineering
- Purdue University College of Engineering
- National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE)
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society
- Society of Women Engineers
- "NSBE History" (PDF). National Society of Black Engineers.
- "About NSBE". National Society of Black Engineers.
- "NSBE History" (PDF). National Society of Black Engineers.
- "NSBE Launches Campaign to Graduate 10,000 Black Engineers". nsbe.org. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
- "National Society of Black Engineers home page". NSBE.
- "Welcome". National Society of Black Engineers. September 23, 2017.