Jody-Ann Tam
Special Assignment JO LEE Magazine

In every lump of coal there is the potential of a diamond. Given the opportunity and the right conditions, a mere fossil can dazzle with opulent clarity and swell in value.

Cultivating and fostering greatness in the young may be perceived in the same light. In North American society, education is a gift that is often taken for granted and perceived as a difficult means of achieving success. Perhaps this is why the young minds of today envision entertainment stars as their heroes; fame and notoriety the ultimate keys to accomplishment and recognition. It grows increasingly difficult to encourage youth to arm themselves with a solid foundation; a proper education. How then – does any academic group endeavor to convince the younger generation that there are unlimited powers to be gained in pursuit of knowledge?

Enter the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). It was 1971 and history was in the making!

Originally, NSBE began as the U.S. based Society of Black Engineers and grew to be the NSBE after their first convention 35 years ago. Today, NSBE has a membership of over 33,000; governed and run by students. It is one of the largest student societies in existence. Eighty-five percent of the organization consists of black members with the remaining, a blend of various ethnic groups.

Enter April, 2010. The thinkable became a reality. The NSBE held its 36th annual convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; its first international convention – appropriately themed: Engineering a Global Impact.

One would assume that such a niche organization couldn’t possibly have the reach to impact any aspect of society, let alone the world stage. Think again! NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

The Society has strived to fulfill this mandate and has grown beyond North America. NSBE now has chapters in five continents and is situated in a total of 20 countries around the globe. The body of most chapters consists of pre-collegiate, collegiate, graduate and alumni groups; a structure that enables the Society to execute its main directive.

Building a strong foundation in its youngest members;

Preparing and arming students with essential skills for the working world;

Facilitating a means by which alumni can give back to NSBE.

Executive director, Dr. Carl B. Mack, is the epitome of many of the great successes of the organization. A distinguished Engineering fellow, the honorary Doctor of Science recipient from Clarkson University was named one of the 25 most influential people in the greater Seattle area. The depth and breadth of the talent involved in the Society also makes it an amazing network to be a part of, no matter the occupation, ethnicity or status of any member.

Whether it be purposefully or indirectly, NSBE became a beacon of the black community; so much in fact that public officials and Toronto tourism clamored at the opportunity to have the convention hosted in their city. This effort was by no means considered an easy feat. The project took five years and many dedicated staff and volunteers to see it come to full fruition.

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