Left to right are Tanya
Stephens, Ralph Chéry (seated below), Kapinga Mbuy (at top),
Chantelle Brown, Fritz-Edwin Jocelyn and Claude Mukam.
Photo by Rosalind Raddatz
by Jane Shulman
When Tanya Stephens was thinking about becoming an engineer, she didnt
have to look far for a role model. Her brother was already in an engineering
He had also joined the McGill chapter of the National Association of Black
Engineers, a group that encourages and supports engineers from minority
groups and people interested in becoming engineers.
He was a role model for me, and I knew I wasnt alone,
Stephens said. She followed in her brothers footsteps, enrolling
in an engineering program at Concordia, and she also joined NSBE, so she
could meet other people from minority groups who were studying engineering.
A large part of NSBE mission is to get more people involved in engineering
and science, said Stephens, who is now the groups treasurer.
She noted that people in the black community are often discouraged from
taking post-secondary science and math classes, often because there is
no one to tell them they are capable of succeeding in those fields.
Fritz-Edwin Jocelyn, Concordia NSBEs president and a third-year
engineering student, agreed. People get misinformation about engineering,
he said. They hear from friends that math and physics are hard,
then they are discouraged from looking into engineering and make poor
choices. They need to know they can do it, too.
Concordias NSBE chapter started last year, and now has about 40
members. Before that, Concordia students interested in joining the organization,
which boasts a membership of more than 15,000 students in North America,
had to join the chapter at McGill.
Founded in 1975, NSBE is the largest student organization in the United
States. Part of its mandate is to increase the number of culturally aware
NSBE promotes academic excellence and community involvement. This includes
encouraging young people of colour to learn more about engineering, with
the hope of bolstering the number of engineers from minority groups. As
it stands, there are few black engineers, and even fewer black women engineers.
Through mentoring, tutoring and community outreach, NSBE members spread
the word that engineering isnt as impenetrable a field as its reputation
may suggest. NSBE members talk with high school students and let them
know that engineering is a viable option for them.
We give talks on the digital divide how people who are financially
disadvantaged dont become part of the technology wave. As engineers,
thats our business, so we have to make sure were up to speed.
Although its name suggests otherwise, members dont have to be black,
and they dont even have to be engineers. They just have to have
a desire to encourage young people to do their best.
The name is a bit misleading, Jocelyn acknowledged. The reason
they kept the name even after the organization wasnt only for black
engineers was out of respect for the people who started NSBE.
The group does fundraising, too, so that they can send members to NSBEs
regional and national conferences. Twelve students will represent Concordias
chapter at this years national conference in Indianapolis on March
The conference is an opportunity for members to connect with their peers
from across Canada and the United States. Its an opportunity for
members to see what NSBE is all about.
I went to the regional conference last year, said Ayana Goin,
another engineering student and NSBE member. It was mind-blowing
to see all those people! It makes you feel like youre not alone,
which can happen sometimes when you look around classes. There are few
women, and almost no women of colour, she said.
People in the community want us to succeed, to reach others and
to be a support, Stephens said. One of the nicest parts of
NSBE is the support system.
Goin agreed: It shows you that people have done this before you.