NSBE, a club for Black Engineers

There are a handful of groups on campus tailored specifically for Black students, including the African American Affairs Center and the Black Student Union. 

But there is a unique one among them you may not have heard: the National Society of Black Engineers. 

The NSBE is one of the largest student-government organizations in the United States, with numerous chapters across the country. The Mankato chapter is dedicated to fostering culturally responsible Black engineers who not only excel academically and professionally but also make a positive impact on the community. 

“You get to see like-minded people like yourself. There are numerous opportunities that you can take advantage of. Sometimes, we’re not able to take advantage of some opportunities because we just don’t know about them or just don’t have access to them,” said the President of the club, Motunrayo Ajayi. “It sets tables for you to step and go higher in either your academic career, your professional career or networking in general. NSBE is a really strong and important organization that I would recommend every black STEM major finds a way to become a part of.” 

NSBE started with the Chicago Six, a group of Purdue engineering students and their professor who formed the first chapter. Their first meeting was in April 1975, with 48 students from 32 schools. It has grown into so much more. 

Members of Mankato’s NSBE attended a conference in Atlanta recently and were able to speak on a panel. This was one of the highlights for President-Elect Edidiong Ukoeninn. He said another highlight was being able to have on-the-spot interviews there. 

“The National Conference opens up the floodgates and allows people to meet with these super high-rated companies that have tons of opportunities for engineers looking for interns and employees,” said Ukoeninn.  “That’s not necessarily something that smaller career fairs do, where a company sees you, they talk to you, and they’re like, ‘Hey, here’s a card. At 11 o’clock tomorrow, we’re gonna sit down and have our interview full out,’ and you might get the job on the spot.” 

The National Conference was a way for NSBE students across the United States to get together and give Black people the opportunity to meet with big-name companies, such as Apple, Dell and others. A few MSU NSBE members were interviewed by those companies. Ajayi said getting to this conference was a challenge as they struggled raising funds for it. They got some help from the College of Sciences, Engineering and Technology and a few academic departments.  

“If you think about coming from a mid-size, somewhat diverse university to being in the midst of thousands of other people and being able to secure a spot for an interview, is a big deal,” said Ajayi. “I’m really proud of my board and how well they did. Regardless of the challenges we faced to get ourselves there, I’m just proud that we travailed, and I’m proud of how much progress we’ve made.” 

Ajayi said many members, including her, went for the first time. She said it was a life-changing experience. 

“Being somewhere with 18-20,000 other people was a drastic shift in what you’re used to. And it’s all Black people, too,” said Ajayi. “It was a sense of community I got there that made me feel so fulfilled. Being able to represent the school on a bigger stage and the chapter on a bigger stage.”  

One reason Ukoeninn likes NSBE is that it is for specific people and adds a level of safety. He said that when he joined it, he felt instant support from the community. In engineering, it can be a hostile environment for Black students. 

“If you don’t necessarily come from those circumstances where that’s been your life since birth, it can be very off-putting, and it can have a negative impact,” said Ukoeninn. “So having a community of people who share the same struggles and hurdles to support you, I think, is amazing.” 

The Mankato chapter of NSBE has tripled in size over the last academic year. The reason? More events and getting the name out there to Black engineering students. Ukoeninn said he credits Ajayi with helping this increase because of her work over the last few months. 

“She has been the number one catalyst for catapulting NSBE from where it was at the beginning of the year, where we’re just getting the ball rolling, to where it is now. Things feel more official,” said Ukoeninn. “The organization has gotten its legs under it, and people are participating more. Much of that is work that Mo’s done, pulling us all into shape and getting us all together, ensuring that we’re staying on task, completing things in time, getting department funding, and the list keeps going on.”

Header photo: The National Society of Black Engineers is one of the largest student-government organizations in the United States. There are numerous chapters across the country and they make significant impacts on the community.  (Courtesy Courtesy National Society of Black Engineers)

Write to Lauren Viska at

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