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NSBE wins at international convention

NSBE members, from left: Advisor JR Swanegan, Ryan Dudley, David Porche, Thomas Hellm, Tiffany Wheeler, Afua Darkwa, Geordan Smith, Roshonda McCowan, Karson Owens, Bobbie Barnett, Matthew Jenkins and Trenisha Ford.

When Mizzou’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) returned from its 36th annual convention last month, they didn’t come back empty-handed.

NSBE won the Region V Small Chapter of the Year award and took first place in the Region V NSBE Love video contest. Chapters with less than 35 active members qualify as a “small chapter,” said Mizzou NSBE President Thomas Hellm. The MU chapter stood out for its community service project, which is weekly tutoring for K-12 students, and participation in A Walk for Education (AWFE), for which NSBE members conduct workshops to educate high school students about the benefits of college.

“We workshop over FAFSA, the benefits of picking an engineering degree, and the importance of pursuing something after high school,” Hellm said.

Roshonda McCowan, a junior information technology major, created NSBE’s award-winning video. She paired photographs from previous years with video interviews.

“Our mission was to show how your chapter shows NSBE love,” McCowan said. In addition to comments by Engineering Dean Jim Thompson and NSBE advisors Professor Gregory Triplett and Diversity Director JR Swanegan, the video featured students commenting on the benefits of being in NSBE and their favorite parts about it.

The video also had to incorporate the convention sponsor, Texas Instruments. The chapter decided to make a mock commercial promoting a TI-89 calculator.

“We had just gotten done with a meeting, and we just said let’s go in there and freestyle it,” McCowan said. They completed the entire commercial on the first try.

“The skit was funny,” Hellm said. “We did a spoof on TI-89 [calculators], saying you get your homework done in five minutes with it, but you can’t get engineering homework done in five minutes,” he said. “We said it does everything but get on Facebook.”

“We have a lot of open-minded people,” McCowan said. “It was silly. It shows you how silly we are.”

The convention, held in Toronto, was NSBE’s first international convention and boasted a packed, four-day agenda including workshops, guest speakers, national and regional executive board elections, mixers and awards ceremonies.

“Some Fortune 500 companies throw the mixers,” Hellm said. “You can be on the dance floor with someone who makes billions of dollars, just kicking it, and that could be the same person you’ll be in an interview with. It’s a different way to network.”

Hellm won the NSBE presidency last May with goals to increase membership, increase its presence on campus and make sure the peer mentorship was as good as it could be.  He said the awards showed that NSBE is taking steps forward and making the chapter the best it can be.

“We’re making progress, doing what our mission states,” he said. “To increase the number of culturally responsible engineers who excel academically and succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

Last year, 19 of the chapter’s members graduated with engineering or engineering-related degrees. Hellm said he joined NSBE to meet people and get involved in the community.

“I was the only person from my graduating class coming to Mizzou,” he said.  “In NSBE you get to help people in your shoes get to where you’re at, do what you did, only better.”

“It was a good feeling to come back from the national convention and have two awards for the chapter,” McCowan added.



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