GV students start group to support black engineers
Grand Valley State University's engineering program currently has about 1,192 students committed to the program, whether or not they have been admitted into the program yet. The major is one of the largest programs at GVSU, drawing over 300 freshmen in the fall of 2016.
The engineering majors are part of a notoriously hard program, with demanding classes and strenuous labs. Many students struggle with keeping up, and that's especially true with students of color in the program. They find themselves in a predominantly white program with no faculty or resources to turn to when they need help.
That's why a group of GVSU engineering students have resurrected the school's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, a student organization that focuses on increasing minority interest in engineering programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
"(Students of color) are very underrepresented in the engineering field," said Tamarind Forbes, a product design and manufacturing student and the president of GVSU's NSBE chapter. "It's a good community to be in. Restarting (GVSU's chapter) was to recreate that positive environment for all of us and to create a good support system that we've been deprived of."
The chapter aims to increase the numbers of black students in the engineering program by showing them that they can excel academically and professionally in the engineering field, no matter their background.
"When you don't see anybody with your skin color in the engineering building, it's kind of sad, kind of depressing," Forbes said. "You cant really reach out to anybody who understands your struggle. NSBE kind of surrounds you in that type of environment so when you go back to school, you feel motivated."
Forbes isn't alone in feeling that way. Atone Joryman, a mechanical engineering major and a member of NSBE, echoed Forbes' worries.
"It gets kind of discouraging when you're in this major and you don't feel comfortable to reach out to people," Joryman said.
Forbes started the chapter as a way to recreate the positive community that the chapter used to have when it first was present at GVSU, in the early 2000s. The chapter faded out of existence because of a lack of faculty support. She remains positive about the chapter this time around, though.
"The dean of the school of engineering and the director of the school of engineering are extremely supportive," Forbes said. "We just hope to expand and make sure that everybody knows that we're here, so they're attracted to Grand Valley because of the engineering program and the support surrounding it."
Though the chapter isn't recognized nationally, the organization traveled to the annual NSBE conference in Boston last month. Forbes and Joryman both said that opportunities like that are what they are most excited to provide to GVSU's community.
"I hope NSBE shows that science, math and engineering and emphasizes that (black students) can do this," Forbes said. "Science is cool, too."
NSBE is not exclusive to black engineering students. Any engineering students, whether they are a minority or not, are welcome to join to support the chapter and its goals.
For more information, visit GVSU's NSBE OrgSync page.