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Students work with NSBE to support minorities at BSOE

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Erin Foley

Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE) undergraduates Aitanna Parker, Betelhem Tarekegn, and Tolulope Familoni were recently elected to the Regional Board of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), an organization that supports and promotes aspirations of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology.

By working with NSBE, the students strive to provide support and resources to minority students at BSOE. They also hope to reach non-engineering UC Santa Cruz minority students interested in STEM who may not realize such a support system exists for them within the engineering community.

Tolulope Familoni, a robotics engineering student focusing on industrial robotics and automation, was elected Regional Finance Chair of the NSBE Regional Board. She became interested in STEM during high school and participated in BSOE’s Summer Bridge program, designed to smooth the transition to college for underrepresented populations in engineering, an experience she believes was valuable in helping her feel connected to the school. This summer, she will be working with a company called Applied Materials and hopes to gain more experience working in robotics.

Tolulope acknowledges that being a minority woman in engineering can feel isolating at times, but hopes her success can inspire others: “I had the opportunity to work in a mentor position for a summer engineering camp for kids through NSBE. All these minority students looked up to me, saying, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ The reason I’m really sticking with this is so I can be an example for future generations.”

Aitanna Parker, NSBE Northern California Zone Membership Chair, also hopes to provide support for other minority students through NSBE: “I found that the intersection of my social consciousness and my passion for engineering can come together and provide access for other people. NSBE is like a community of STEM majors. It offers support and says, ‘We’re here. You can do it.’”

After trying out a couple of different majors at BSOE, Aitanna is happy to have discovered the Technology & Information Management (TIM) major, explaining, “I really like the fact that you can humanize the data with things like user experience.” She’s interested in how people with disabilities interact with technology. Aitanna plans to study abroad for a year in Ghana to work to bridge the gap between technology and people.

Originally a business management major, Betelhem Tarekegn also decided to study TIM, which she has enjoyed because it combines business and technology. She plans to pursue a career in supply chain management. In addition, she aspires to work toward bridging the gap between technology and people: “I want to create an organization or company that works toward solving African problems using African resources rather than outside sources. How can we best utilize our natural or intellectual resources? There’s so much potential in the continent that hasn’t been explored at all.”

Betelhem was elected NSBE Executive Board Secretary. She wants to see NSBE reach more minority students who may not realize that resources like NSBE and the MESA Engineering Program (MEP) exist to support them and hopes to work with BSOE to make this a reality.

The three women have worked hard to achieve success at BSOE, but believe that the hard work was worth it. “When you’re scared about something, when there’s fear, there’s a lot you can get out of that fear. Most of the time the outcome will outweigh the fear that comes with something like starting a new position or new area of study. At the end of the day, overcoming that fear can lead to a lot of growth,” Betelhem shared.