Leah Payne, president of the Northwestern NSBE chapter, discussed the organization’s goals and accomplishments.

Northwestern Engineering’s One McCormick lecture series kicked off on October 7 with a presentation by Leah Payne (’22), a chemical engineering major and president of the Northwestern chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

During her virtual lecture that drew 125 attendees, Payne gave on overview of the goals of NSBE as well as the accomplishments of the Northwestern chapter.

In an effort to build community and enhance connectivity amongst the dynamic network at the McCormick School of Engineering, the One McCormick lecture series provides faculty and students with a venue to present their efforts at Northwestern Engineering. Initially, the series will focus on the student experience, including diversity, health and wellness, and student success. 

Julio M. Ottino

“We cannot afford to have disconnected pieces,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of Northwestern Engineering, in his introduction. “Why? Because we want ideas, and the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas, but more importantly, we want a wide range of ideas. We want a diversity of ideas. Diverse ideas emerge from a diverse network. We need to educate each other.”

Payne explained how NSBE aims to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. As part of the national organization, which has 500 chapters and nearly 16,000 active members in the US and abroad, NSBE’s Northwestern chapter works with students at Evanston Township High School to increase youth involvement in STEM and has held workshops to engage K through 12 minority students. In addition, the group supports its own members with academics, such as study groups, and professional development opportunities, including networking with representatives from Google and Facebook. 

After her presentation, Payne took questions from attendees, including how faculty can support NSBE. 

“The best thing faculty can do is make sure they have a good enough connection with (students) so if they are having issues within their classes, they’re comfortable talk to them — and to keep having those conversations,” she said.

Conversations with the wider community is important because they are “ensuring that both faculty and staff — and students — are aware of the issues that Black students are being affected by and experience and face within McCormick and Northwestern,” she added.

The next event is Wednesday, October 14, featuring the Northwestern chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Registration is required to attend.

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