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50K Coalition advances STEM to attract more African Americans

Cory Alexander Haywood | 10/26/2017, 12:38 p.m.

Only a few years ago, if an aspiring college student from the inner-city were asked what major he or she would pursue, chances are it wouldn’t be engineering.

That’s not to say students of color are incapable of performing in high-level math and using the skills they’ve been taught to secure a rewarding career as a civil or computer engineer.

But generally, there has until recently always been a reluctance among Black and Brown students to fully immerse themselves in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Instead, they usually gravitate to the social sciences and competitive sports.

However, as more inner-city schools offer STEM programs to their students, it may increase the number of Black college attendees who choose to major in engineering.

To assist with this effort, the 50K Coalition is focused on a bold national goal: To produce 50,000 diverse engineering graduates annually by 2025.

Consisting of more than 40 organizations, the coalition was formed by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). These are among the nation’s preeminent diversity engineering organizations which, collectively, serve more than 85,000 pre-collegiate, collegiate and professional members. The expertise and more than 188 years of collective experience of the coalition’s founding organizations perfectly position them to tackle the coalition’s goal.

The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineers (NACME) recently chose the 50K Coalition Leadership Circle as the recipient of NACME’s 2017 Diversity Vision Award.

The award was presented on Oct. 18 at the 2017 NACME Awards Gala, at Cipriani 42nd Street, New York, N.Y.

NACME is the largest provider of college scholarships for underrepresented minorities pursuing degrees at schools of engineering. The council’s Diversity Vision Award “honors individuals who set personal examples that inspire minority youth to set a high standard for their educational and professional goals and for believing that the American dream is one that should not be encumbered by the boundaries of race or gender.”

“For more than four decades, NACME’s work has been vital for any effort to increase the representation of Blacks, Latinos, native peoples and women in engineering in the U.S. So this recognition has added significance for all members of the 50K Coalition,” said Karl W. Reid, NSBE executive director and member of the 50K Coalition Leadership Circle.

Sarah Echohawk, chief executive officer of AISES; Karen Horting, executive director and chief executive officer of the Society of Women Engineers, and Raquel Tamez, chief executive officer of SHPE, complete the Leadership Circle.

“AISES strives to inspire native youth to pursue and achieve their STEM educational and professional goals,” said Echohawk. “The work of the 50K Coalition is instrumental in ensuring all minority youth have the opportunities necessary to make their dreams a reality. Along with the other 50K Coalition Leadership Circle members, AISES is honored to receive this year’s Diversity Vision Award.”

Horting commented, “To have the collective impact work of the 50K Coalition recognized by an organization in the diversity field as prestigious as NACME is truly an honor. Increasing the number of diverse engineering graduates in the U.S. is vital to our future economic competitiveness, our quality of life and our national security. Receiving this award will give added visibility to our work and hopefully inspire other organizations to get involved with the 50K Coalition.”

The IB Times reports that African-Americans earned 4.4 percent of master’s degrees in engineering and 3.6 percent of engineering Ph.Ds in 2014, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, which brings the talent pool to nearly 5,000 each year. There are an additional 745 graduates with undergraduate or master’s degrees in computer science.