Favor Nerrise, National President, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
Favor Nerrise wanted to be a brain surgeon when she was 10 but was conflicted. “Brain surgery sounds cool. But how can we improve surgical tools?” she remembers thinking.
With the help of her mother, Nerrise searched online for robotics tutorials, training videos and local competitions. Initially, she found VEX Robotics and First LEGO League, two organizations that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Nerrise also met with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a nonprofit whose mission is to increase the number of black engineers.
Now 22, Nerrise has a doctorate in electrical engineering. student at Stanford University, is currently researching tools, models, and methodologies that can help healthcare professionals better understand how the brain works. She has also transitioned from NSBE Local Chapter President to her current role as National President as she leads its efforts to increase diversity in the engineering field.
Only 5% of developers, engineers and programmers are black, according to data from /dev/color, a nonprofit that helps companies find black tech talent. Nerrise says she is the only black woman in her 160-person electrical engineering doctorate. cohort. But she and NSBE hope to boost those numbers through Game Change 2025, a strategic plan Nerrise has implemented to see 10,000 black engineers graduate each year by 2025.
Currently, about 6,000 black engineers graduate each year, according to Nerrise.
NSBE’s mission is to help more Black engineers excel academically, succeed professionally and have a positive impact on the community, including providing youth workshops, engineering camps, fund relief and scholarships.
Nerrise wants the nonprofit to become a household name.
“We are completely redefining what it means to be a member of the NBSE and what the identity of the NBSE looks like,” she said.
Favor Nerrise (L) stands with the winners of the University of Maryland NSBE Chapter Cyber Security Challenge
NSBE has three main engineering audiences it supports, starting with extending STEM awareness to a pre-college demographic. It also provides technical and leadership training to college students to prepare them for the professional world and engineering professionals to advance their careers.
But to reach the goal of 10,000 black engineering graduates, the NBSE had to make significant changes to its approach and raise awareness among younger students. Children as young as third grade are now being exposed to NBSE, which Nerrise said was a necessity. “And we might even need to go all the way to kindergarten,” she says, “because we found that if kids weren’t exposed early, black and brown students were generally at a disadvantage in catching up. in math and science.”
Nerrise also wants to see changes at the management level of the company. “I think these companies have a lot more responsibility to ensure representation, not only in hiring but also in developing these employees,” she said. Although recruitment practices have improved, there is still a lack of representation in management, she said.
NSBE’s Board of Affiliates includes Goldman Sachs, Google and Merck.
The NBSE has also partnered with INROADS, a non-profit organization that creates pathways for high school and college students of diverse ethnicities, to publish a DEI Business Index based on the experiences of NSBE members who have completed internships in large companies. Nerrise hopes this report will hold companies that claim to meet their DEI goals accountable.
Favor Nerrise (bottom center) stands with members of the National Society of Black Engineers Executive Council and Conference Planning Committee