With over 500 chapters and 16,000 members, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) offers the largest student governed organization for black STEM students. This year, eight students from PCC will be attending the NSBE conference in Pittsburgh.
The NSBE was established in 1975 by seven black students to create a community that was nonexistent during this time. Kevin Scroggins, a former PCC NSBE president, started the chapter on campus in 2016. Scroggins stated that when he started the chapter, PCC had only 2% of their black students enrolled in STEM programs and wanted to change that.
“The biggest thing that NSBE offered was to provide [a] source of community among African Americans in STEM, as well as for other underrepresented students,” he said.
Every year, the NSBE hosts a national conference providing workshops, presentations and a large career fair. Hundreds of tech companies offer internships and positions on the spot. Last year at the national conference, four out of the five PCC students that attended got prestigious internships that same day.
“[It is] bigger than any career fair you’d see in Los Angeles,” said Dave Smith, co-advisor for the PCC NSBE chapter.
Smith stated that black students, by society’s standards, are expected to study music, sociology or play sports. The percentage of black students in STEM programs was low so creating the NSBE chapter at PCC was a way to guide interested students into the field.
Smith started college at PCC pursuing a career in music because he believed it was all he could do.
“Outside of these conferences, they [black students] don’t really feel important,” Smith said. “Even here on this campus, they don’t really have anyone telling them that they are important.”
Smith was often discouraged, especially when testing into Math 125. It wasn’t until Smith talked to a counselor at UCLA that he realized that there were not only opportunities, but a community for black STEM students. The black student populace don’t know about many of these opportunities and Smith believes it is because academia does not present it to them.
Yonatan Gusga, an original PCC NSBE board member, believes in changing the system from the inside. That meant taking matters into his own hands.
“We wanted to create a club that holds on to the current population of African-American STEM students and encourages other to join,” he said.
Gusga, an immigrant from Ethiopia, stated that the lack of information for black students keeps them out of the field. He experienced this when he came to PCC and did not receive the support he needed.
“When you live in marginalized communities, your ability to look outside of that is so small,” said Gusga. “You only see people doing marginalized jobs and it’s slave labor.”
Establishing the NSBE chapter on campus was important to Gusga to uplift his own community and show black students that they are capable of having successful STEM careers.