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First endowed fund for a student organization supports Black engineers

The fund will support in perpetuity UCR’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers

October 1, 2020
Author: Holly Ober
October 1, 2020

The National Society of Black Engineers, or NSBE, chapter at UC Riverside recently established the first endowed fund in the university’s history to support a student organization. 

The fund will support in perpetuity NSBE’s mentorship and professional development opportunities for Black engineers at UCR. The NSBE fund will provide student members with annual resources for professional development activities, invited industry speakers, leadership and research conference experiences, and community outreach.

UCR's NSBE student chapter in Feb 2020
UCR's NSBE student chapter members in February, 2020.

The fund came to fruition through the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering’s partnership with the Council for the Advancement of Black Engineers, or CABE, an Inland Empire organization focused on mentoring Black engineers. 

“My wife, Christine, and I are honored to partner with Gordon and Jill Bourns in the formation of this historic endowment,“ said Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr., vice chair of the Bourns College of Engineering Council of Advisors and co-founder of CABE. “Despite a history of exclusion and barriers to an engineering education and careers, Blacks have made significant contributions to the technological capacity of the U.S. We wish to encourage Black youth to prepare themselves for the immense opportunities an engineering education and career can afford. We want engineering educators and corporate leaders to reassess their programs and ensure a level playing field exists that results in increasing recruiting, admission, hiring, retention, developing and promoting their faculty and employees to make certain they are equitable and inclusive for Black and other individuals of color without regard for gender or other defining characteristics.” 

The fund has already raised more than $34,000 from 135 donors, making good progress toward its current $100,000 goal. 

UCR NSBE student chapter alumni at the national convention in 2013
UCR NSBE student chapter members at the national convention in 2013.

“As students, NSBE members saw a critical need to increase support for Black engineers at UCR, and an endowment is a great way to establish a foundation for the long-term,” said Keilani Conner ‘20, a previous president of NSBE who earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from BCOE. “The NSBE Fund will provide practical support and remind Black engineers at UCR that their predecessors believe wholeheartedly in both their success and commitment to becoming engineers. When faced with obstacles, students will know they have a strong community to depend on.”

“NSBE means so much for so many BCOE students, and it’s been a welcoming community for many Black engineers at UCR,” said Charles Woods Jr., current president of NSBE. “This fund will allow us to grow that community and support more members in their professional development, such as sending them to invaluable regional and national NSBE conventions.” 

With 30,000 members, NSBE is the largest student-managed organization in the country and is open to all students. NSBE's mission is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. NSBE comprises more than 790 chapters on college and university campuses, alumni extension chapters, and pre-college chapters nationwide.

“This endowment has been the vision of the Council for the Advancement of Black Engineers for some time,” said Steven Henderson ’94, co-founder and president of CABE. “Now established, our mission is to move the endowment to a sustainment level ensuring the successful matriculation of Bourns College Black engineering students into industry, academia, and entrepreneurship. A strategic focus of the CABE is to develop a fruitful K-12 STEM pipeline in the Inland Empire through our support of a NSBE Jr. chapter in the near future. This will provide the foundation for collaborative K-12 STEM partnerships, with the NSBE students mentoring the next generation of Black engineering students.” 

Henderson, a product of the NSBE Jr. pipeline, was the first Black student to graduate from BCOE with a degree in chemical engineering.

CABE supports the activities of UCR's NSBE Chapter by providing mentorship and access to resources. The council’s mission is to employ ideas that create a passion in Black engineering students to gain advanced knowledge through higher education. CABE believes successful students will drive innovation, find and implement solutions to the technical challenges facing our world, and compete globally.

“Through the BCOE Dean’s Council of Advisors, we were able to ensure this initiative was a priority for the college,” said Carole Sanders, a member of CABE and the Dean’s Council of Advisors. Sanders is a civil engineer who helped construct the 210 freeway and works on many regional transportation projects. “Establishing this fund is a huge success, and we look forward to witnessing the achievements of Black engineers who graduate from UCR.”