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National Society of Black Engineers at UCLA raises nearly $23K for convention

Members of the National Society of Black Engineers at UCLA pose for a picture at a previous NSBE convention. The club raised nearly $23,000 in February to sponsor club members who will attend the annual conference later this month. (Courtesy of Selasi Etchey)

By Irene Huh

March 9, 2024 5:36 p.m.

This post was updated March 10 at 9:03 p.m.

UCLA’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers raised nearly $23,000 in February to help members attend the organization’s national convention.

The annual convention, whose 50th iteration will be held from March 20 to 24 in Atlanta, is sponsored by the NSBE – which has more than 600 chapters with over 24,000 members across the country – and includes career fairs, networking events and competitions. This year, the club aimed to raise $5,000 more than last year to send more students to the convention, said Kaycee Stiemke, the president of NSBE at UCLA and a fourth-year cognitive science student.

The convention offers industry networking exposure to students, said Mia Irvin-Pollard, the external vice president of NSBE at UCLA. Irvin-Pollard, who a third-year electrical engineering student, added that at previous conventions, students have won competitions, exhibited their research and found job opportunities.

“To be able to be in that space where other people understand where you come from and understand struggles specific to Black students is really uplifting, especially seeing the older students and the professionals who have already been through it and who are successful,” Stiemke said.

Throughout February, the club promoted the fundraiser online and reached out to the greater UCLA community, including alumni, for monetary support, Stiemke said. She added that the cost of attending the conference can be more than $1,000 per person, making the fundraiser important.

While members currently have to pay for registration, the club made efforts to reimburse those fees to increase accessibility, said Nia St. Cyr, co-finance chair of NSBE at UCLA and a third-year chemical engineering student. Ryan Buchanan, the club’s programs chair, added that the fund will also be used to help members attend future conferences.

Stiemke said the convention has been a positive and affirming space for her. Attending in past years motivated her to figure out what she wanted to study and apply to more graduate schools, she said.

Stiemke added that she is looking forward to seeing younger students have the opportunity to interact with other successful Black engineers.

Irvin-Pollard said the convention helped shape her career path, as she did not previously know much about subspecialties within electrical engineering. Attending the convention’s workshops helped her shape and change her career plans as she observed what other Black engineers have achieved, she said.

“Because we have a lot of first-generation students, no one really tells you about these things,” Irvin-Pollard said. “It’s good to have those types of workshops where they explain those things in depth and tell you what you can look out for.”

Beyond the fundraiser, NSBE also hosts community outreach programs, such as workshops for middle and high school students that celebrate women in STEM, Stiemke said. The organization also plans to reach out to Black engineering community college students, who are considering transferring to UCLA, Irvin-Pollard said.

Buchanan, who is also a second-year materials engineering student, said because there are so few Black students in engineering, it is important for them to be able to come together and form a community.

“We’re not the majority, really, anywhere,” St. Cyr said. “We have to keep the idea that we may be opening doors for people who look like us, but younger.”

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