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The National Society of Black Engineers on Creating Opportunity for Chicago’s Black Youth 

The National Society of Black Engineers on Creating Opportunity for Chicago's Black Youth 

By Jhanelle Smith, mHUB Development and Engagement Coordinator

It’s important, particularly in the tech startup and small business communities, to have a robust and multi-skilled support system. In our Community Partner Spotlight series, we highlight mHUB’s incredible network of community partners, who provide a multitude of skills, resources, backgrounds, and perspectives. We reached out to Benita Mordi, Secretary of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) in Chicago, to give us insights on her community, what they’re doing to give underserved youth greater opportunities, and how mHUB has and can continue to aid in this mission.

Tell us about your mission and community. 

NSBE, or the National Society of Black Engineers, is an organization with a mission to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and ultimately, positively-impact the community. We coordinate pre-collegiate, collegiate, and professional initiatives and create programming around these focuses. We’ve implemented summer camps and engineering camps which expose students to different types of engineering and encourage them to engage in that space.

What’s the secret to your success? 

We have achieved a growing membership across the metropolitan area. Our online presence has increased significantly, and we’ve done well, despite the state of the world, in creating content that has been recognized. To achieve all of this, our secret is one very important thing: The people. The people who sit on our board, our partners, those who understand and buy into our mission and are willing to dedicate time to it; they really help us drive our mission and move us forward. Our local network has also been an incredible resource—they understand the city and how to get access to resources. And of course, our volunteers who give their time toward things like mentorship. 

What made you join forces with mHUB? What value does this partnership provide your community?

Our relationship with mHUB began when one of our founding members, Ed Coleman, was invited to be a part of the mHUB family, and then he extended that invitation to the rest of us. It really speaks to an idea that once you find out about the mHUB community, you can’t help but immerse yourself in that. So much of our desire at NSBE is to show students the possibilities behind technology and STEM-related fields. mHUB really provides a place for people who want to open up their horizons or want to collaborate and ensures our members can work through the creative side of engineering. For example, students interested in music can become Sound Designers, which requires that engineering know-how. If a student wants to be a fashion designer, maybe innovate a new ballet shoe, which takes an understanding of how they work and how they have been designed in the past to make it better. mHUB gives us the space and resources to do this. 

How do you hope this partnership will further your mission?

 Our local netowrk in the Chicagoland area like mHUB has been such a huge help and assists us in driving our strategy and initiatives. Since we do a lot with the “Next Generation” of engineers and makers in the mHUB space, having that sense of community and partnership from mHUB and being able to see that work in action from members of the space serves to inspire our students to continue on the STEM path. mHUB also gives us the space to encourage small business owners, entrepreneurs, creatives, engineers and others to prototype or develop products and its again that ability to access resources that is critical to the communities we serve. 

What’s next for your organization? 

Like I mentioned, it’s all very creative! We’ve had to adapt in recent times, and that has extended to opening greater offerings for online engagement. We’ve got Mind Meld Mondays where we share insights on a project another member is working on, Wealth Building Wednesdays in which members receive tips and tricks for wealth management, and the Social Justice League, which is a committee which aims to identify and eliminate disparity. My personal favorite is Take a Beat, which includes a week in review to discuss what’s going on in the world and features special guests who give fresh perspectives on engineering, particularly as a minority. Also, we’re looking to build a STEM center on the South Side of Chicago, which we hope will help de-mystify the perception of STEM in that area as something that can’t encompass other passions or interests. That’s just not true! One of our guest speakers for Take a Beat is a lyricist and artists whose music is amazing, but she also happens to be a user interface designer! STEM isn’t just one thing, and this center can help us prove that and give opportunities to marginalized and underserved students to actualize that.

How can the broader Chicagoland region support you? 

I would say to simply be curious and ask questions. No question is too small and there are no stupid ones. Reach out and engage with us! In speaking of our STEM center, please reach out to get to know more about partnership or how to donate towards that cause. 

We can be reached at https://www.chicagonsbe.org/contact.