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UCI’s National Society of Black Engineers Aims to Provide an Inclusive Platform for Career Success

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The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is a student-run organization founded to create an inclusive environment for the disproportionately low number of Black engineering students at UCI. The organization provides members with opportunities to further their knowledge in engineering, helping them prepare for their careers through conventions and connecting them with experts in the field.

NSBE came to light with the creation of its first chapter at Purdue University in 1971. Two engineering students recognized the need to create a space that not only promoted inclusivity for fellow Black engineers on campus but also a platform that acknowledged their passion, drive and commitment to the discipline in a way that propelled them into the field.

In 1975, the same initiative sparked the creation of the chapter at UCI.

NSBE President and fourth-year aerospace engineering student Rikiya “Riki” Smith has been part of the organization since his first year at UCI. 

NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community,” Smith said.

With this mission in mind, the NSBE has established over 500 chapters in universities across the country.

The primary reason behind the creation of hundreds of chapters seems to result from one commonality shared by many universities: there is a disproportionately low number of Black students in STEM.

According to the Hechinger Report, universities in the U.S. reported that less than 7% of Black students received their bachelor’s in a STEM discipline in 2018. The number of Black students who graduate with a degree in engineering has faced a decline since 2016 and currently stands at roughly 4%. More recently, a study conducted at the Pew Research Center found that in 2019, only 9% of STEM workers were Black. 

“[At UCI,] the number of Black students who are in the School of Engineering and the School of ICS is very low. It is very difficult to find each other,” Smith said.

NSBE has provided Smith and other Black engineering students an outlet to connect with one another.

“This club serves as an opportunity for students who want the ability to interact with other Black students studying a similar discipline. Not only does NSBE serve as an organization for professional development, but [it] also serves as a community,” Smith said.

Regarding opportunities for career development, NSBE has connected members to engineering company representatives and provided other resources to apply for entry-level positions or internships within the field. The organization also holds an annual regional conference and a national convention, which hosts workshops, guest speakers and career fairs.

Such events provide members with the means to form a connection with experts in the field, which can ultimately help them receive “an interview or an offer from companies,” Smith said. 

An upcoming NSBE joint event with three other UCI organizations — the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women in Computer and Information Sciences (WICS) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) — will have software engineering company Stripe inform students on how to apply for internships and entry-level positions. The event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

NSBE will also be hosting a webinar with the Boeing Native American Network on Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. The panel will cover different interview styles conducted by companies, as well as present ways to successfully answer interview questions using the STAR technique.

For further information, individuals may contact NSBE at or visit their Instagram page at @nsbe_at_uci.

Esha Sashil Chandra is a STEM Staff Writer for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at