Good vibes from the faculty and generous fellowships were big attractions, but my journey to University of Michigan’s doctorate program in engineering education research really began long before I was even born, in 1975.
That’s the year that six undergraduates at Purdue University and their faculty advisor realized the vision of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). As they faced and conquered their own academic challenges, these Black students from inner-city Chicago learned the power of self-confidence and self-efficacy to transform their life prospects for the better. But rather than turning inward, they decided to “do the right thing” by helping others. They stayed true to their culture and spread their power to people and communities nationwide.
Their vision continues to motivate NSBE’s 24,000-plus members today, in the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere, as we work to achieve academic excellence and professional success and make a positive impact on our community.
Throughout my college career, as a bachelor’s and master’s student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State, and now as a doctoral student here at U-M, NSBE has inspired and sustained me through the difficulties of being a double-underrepresented minority: Black and a woman in my field. Through all of my ups and downs, the role models I’ve met and the academic and social support and mentoring I’ve received from the NSBE family have made me know that, just as Michelle Obama learned, I AM ENOUGH.
Yes, grad school is tough, but I know it would be even tougher for me to sit back and not support others by taking on the extra challenge of leading NSBE this year as the organization’s national chair. Working with our Society’s board of directors composed of college students like me, driving the U.S. toward the goal of producing 10,000 new Black engineers annually by 2025, gives my work at U-M deeper meaning. I know that the knowledge I’m gaining here is about much more than me.
I envision a world where students and professionals will be well represented in these engineering spaces and where the most challenging part of their experience is their coursework and job responsibilities — rather than their self-identification as minorities. I believe that I can be a part of this change and work every day to “pay it forward” and inspire/encourage those who need it most.
This article was guest-written by Jocelyn Jackson, who is a doctoral student in engineering education research at the University of Michigan and national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers.