Fostering the next generation of engineers


Photo by Demi Guillory

NSBE members Lauryns Rodrigue (left) and Kiara Horton spoke to Driftwood to encourage more people to join their growing group, share their club’s mission and talk about their work to be a more present force in the community.

Demi Guillory, Reporter

Above the door of room 308 in the engineering building is the acronym NSBE. It stands for the National Society of Black Engineers — a national organization that has had a chapter at UNO since 1980. Junior Lauryns Rodrigue and senior Kiara Horton are both civil engineering majors and members of NSBE who recently offered some insight into the work they do to inspire future generations of engineers.

The club operates extensively on its commitment “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers, who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community,” as its mission statement reads.

“We want to support and help members of our group succeed,” Horton said.

Exceeding academically begins in the club’s meeting room, which doubles as a study space. Members frequently seek the quiet, comfortable space to study without interruptions or simply take a break between classes. “Some people even take naps here,” Rodrigue said, pointing to the large sofa nestled against a window in the room. “The room is always open, we always have someone in here to open and close [the room] for whoever needs to use it.”

While a considerable amount of their time and work is devoted to academics, the group also coordinates recurring events that are designed to prepare members for their engineering careers. A few weeks ago, the group conducted a mock interview that all engineering students, regardless of their NSBE membership status, could participate in.

The event, and those like the career fair, prepares members for a future outside the classroom. Horton describes the events as an “immediate” step toward her future, “a support system to make you better than just learning all the technical stuff you do in class,” she said. Both Rodrigue and Horton are encouraged by the fact the group’s former vice-president received a job offer at one of the annual regional NSBE conferences in Dallas. Additional members have also been hired at some of the events held right here on campus.

Academic and professional success of its students are products of the club’s work, but NSBE’s reach extends beyond the walls of UNO. Community service is an important aspect of their work. Events such as STEM NOLA and NSBE Junior Day engage K-12 students from inner-city schools and introduce them to a field foreign to many of them.

“A lot of them hear ‘engineering,’ and they don’t know what it is,” said Rodrigue, noting that many of these students are seniors.

“Our work pushes toward black people,” Horton said. “But it doesn’t matter who you are — anyone can come in.” However, their focus is aimed especially toward students in inner-cities because a lot of them don’t see engineering as a realistic option for their future. The work NSBE does with these students — tours of the engineering facility, educational talks and experiments — is all about instilling hope and confidence in their abilities. “When they see someone in our position, they can say, ‘I can do it now,’” she said.

Rodrigue and Horton also reflected on the group’s growth in the years since they have joined the club. Rodrigue joined in her sophomore year and Horton became a member two years ago. Horton said NSBE was “just a title” and didn’t have an active force on campus during her freshman year. Since then, she said the club has “significantly grown and is going to continue to grow, hopefully, as long as we keep pushing and letting people know we’re here.”

Students interested in joining NSBE can stop by the club’s office to fill out a membership form or email the club at [email protected] for more information.