NACME BLOG

Interacting with NACME Scholars and Campus Visits

 

 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My greatest joy as President and Chief Executive Officer of NACME comes when I have the opportunity to meet and interact with our Pre-Engineering students and NACME Scholars across the nation. Two recent opportunities have served to remind me in a powerful way of why I do what I do at NACME.

On Tuesday, February 25, 2014, I delivered the Black History Month lecture at the United States Military Academy at West Point. I was invited by Cadet Kirsten Redmon and the campus chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Kirsten is a member of the West Point Class of 2017. She is a graduate of the Academy of Engineering (AOE) at Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, Texas, one of the 15 AOEs opened in 2009-2010 as part of Cohort II. A founding partnership of NACME, the National Academy Foundation (NAF), and Project Lead the Way (PLTW), the AOEs are small learning communities that focus high school students on careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). They are designed to help meet the increasing demand for qualified professionals in the field of engineering.

I met Kirsten several years ago on a visit to the AOE at Sam Houston High School. Coming from a challenging childhood, Kirsten’s interest in engineering was ignited by her AOE experience. In fact, her academic record in high school was so stellar that she was nominated by NACME to participate in the Adventures in the Mind program, a mentoring summit for top students nationwide, where she joined with 150 other high school students in meeting 50 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and MacArthur Fellows, at the University of Montana at Missoula. We were so taken with Kirsten that we featured her profile in the 2011 NACME Annual Report.

Today, Kirsten is experiencing the rigorous first-year curriculum at West Point. She is especially enthusiastic about her courses in English literature and East Asian history. She eventually plans to work on developing airplane electronics as a systems engineer. Kirsten is also excited by the possibility to change lives as an engineer. She wants to solve a lot of the world’s problems by improving the nation’s ability to understand, assess, and respond to climate-related risks and opportunities, and economic disasters.

On February 6-7, 2014, I led a team from NACME on a visit to the University of Michigan, College Of Engineering. NACME and Michigan engineering have joined forces through the NACME Scholars Program to increase the representation of African American, American Indian, and Latino young women and men who are successful in engineering education and careers. We met with 24 NACME Scholars who are completing bachelor’s degrees across the full spectrum of engineering disciplines. I have already been contacted by several students seeking assistance in obtaining internship experiences with NACME Board Companies this summer.

As a former college president and chancellor, and leader in the diversity movement, I have always been proud of the courage displayed by President Mary Sue Coleman in 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the University of Michigan to consider race in admissions to help create more diversity in their student body. The journey since 2003 has not been easy for the university as they have struggled in the wake of Proposal 2 and the ban on affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Challenges remain to increase minority enrollment and to make the campus more inclusive. However, we left the University of Michigan with the very clear impression that the institution will continue to be a national leader in actualizing the commitment to diversity.

 

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