Three student groups – Hofstra’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau, and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) – recently hosted the 2nd Annual Black Engineers Panel to support the aspirations of students of color interested in pursuing careers in engineering and technology.
Moderated by Dr. Mauro Caputi, associate professor of engineering, panelists Ramon Parchment, assistant project manager at AECOM Tishman, Schillivia Baptiste, P.E., CEO at Laland Baptiste, and Shane Mitchell, a field engineer at the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station in Manhattan, spoke to a group of approximately 40 college and high school students about what it takes to succeed as a black engineer.
“Be confident that you can do whatever you put your mind to,” Baptiste said. “It doesn’t matter your background or life experiences. See yourself as a winner.”
At the start of the discussion, each of the panelists shared that they didn’t envision themselves as engineers when they entered college but, through the guidance of educators and mentors, discovered their passion for the field.
“I was always good in math and planned to become an accountant until the chairman of the engineering department saw my potential and encouraged me to take a few engineering classes,” Mitchell said.
Parchment, Baptiste and Mitchell said that skills they developed in college have helped them succeed in their profession.
“College taught me time management and determination,” Parchment said. “As an engineer, you’re trained to be a problem-solver. You don’t realize it while you’re going through it, but college teaches you how to manage stress and how to work as a team with friends and classmates to solve problems. These are all skills you’ll need to complete engineering projects.”
Diversity continues to be a challenge in STEM-related fields, particularly engineering, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Trust.
Baptiste, the only woman on the panel, said: “I’ve come across more challenges in my field being a female engineer than being an African American engineer. In those situations, I’ve remained confident in my role on a project and my decision to pursue this career.”
Oriana Merone, ’19 a biomedical engineering major and president of the National Society of Black Engineers, helped organize the event.
“I hope the students gained a better understanding of not only engineering, but STEM subjects and how they can take the steps to pursue careers related to those fields,” she said. “I also hope they walked away with the knowledge that they can do anything they put their minds to.”