UMD Students, Alums Recognized by National Society of Black Engineers
The University of Maryland has a long history of leadership excellence within the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a student-governed organization supporting collegiate and pre-collegiate students and professionals in engineering and technology. Housed at Maryland under the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering (CMSE), UMD’s Black Engineers Society (BES) chapter has been recognized by NSBE with multiple awards and appointments to the national executive board, including the top position of chair—two terms running.
“The Black Engineers Society creates a pipeline for leadership involvement, from UMD all the way to the national level,” said Rosemary Parker, CMSE’s director since 1985 and Maryland’s BES adviser. In attendance at this year’s NSBE convention held in Kansas City, Missouri, she notes how rewarding it was to see several former students recognized. “When their names were called, I was like a proud parent,” she said.
The Maryland chapter is just one of many resources that help CMSE deliver on its promise of ensuring student success. Starting with pre-college programs, CMSE nurtures and supports students through undergraduate and graduate school, culminating in a vibrant alum community focused on professional development and excellence.
“Fundamental to the Clark School’s work is our belief that anyone who wants to be an engineer should have that opportunity, and it’s incumbent on us to develop a diverse pipeline of emerging talent. For more than 40 years, CMSE has championed our students and helped us achieve both ideals,” said Samuel Graham, Jr., dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “We’re looking forward to many more years of engineers from all backgrounds developing solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.”
Courtney Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate and Clark Doctoral Fellow studying bioengineering at Maryland. He received the 2023 Mike Shinn NSBE Distinguished Member award, having served in leadership roles with NSBE since 2013. “It’s amazing to be recognized for the love I pour into the organization that poured so much into me,” he said.
Serving on the national board, Johnson helped devise the organization’s strategic plan, Game Change 2025, to drive STEM excellence and social justice forward. He sees positive change happening in his communities, including increasing diversity in his Maryland cohort. “It’s been inspiring,” he said.
Avery Layne ’19 is a Clark School graduate student studying mechanical engineering. While an undergraduate, he served as president of UMD’s BES chapter before taking on regional and national roles. At this year’s NSBE convention, Layne was named incoming national chair.
As an alum and mentor, Layne speaks at CMSE leadership retreats and engages with the next generation of NSBE leaders. “I want to make sure students have as transformative an experience as I had,” he said.
With NSBE’s 50th anniversary approaching, Layne looks forward to making a positive impact on a larger scale. “We want to empower NSBE members to engage with their communities to make sure we’re not leaving people behind,” he said.
Favour Nerrise ’21 traces her history with NSBE to age 10, when she joined a pre-collegiate chapter of the organization. As outgoing national chair, she is most proud of the support the organization provided Black engineers and communities over the last two years, including initiatives for more equitable K-12 STEM education.
At Maryland, Nerrise earned a B.S., as well as minors in global engineering leadership and Arabic. She’s currently pursuing her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University, researching experimental neuroengineering. She credits her time as president of BES for strengthening her resolve to use engineering and technology for “social good.” Her mentors, including Parker, primed her for success in leadership. “BES will forever remain family,” she said.
Nicole Vaughn ’99, M.S. ’01 is vice president of ExxonMobil Catalysts & Licensing, LLC, leading the global commercial team responsible for catalysts and licensing sales for ExxonMobil’s refining and chemical technology.
The proud Terp alum, who later went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Purdue University, first learned about NSBE in 1995 as a student in CMSE’s LSAMP Bridge Program, which invites incoming first-year students to campus for academic and personal support. “We still refer to ourselves as Bridge 95,” she said of the cohort.
Vaughn earned NSBE’s 2023 Outstanding Woman in Technology award. In her acceptance speech she referred to the African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. “To raise successful Black engineers,” she said, “NSBE is our village.”
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Published June 13, 2023