Reflecting the organization's commitment to the community, the Dow Promise Program has awarded a $10,000 grant to the University of Houston branch of the National Society of Black Engineers, to partner with the Blodgett Urban Gardens to revitalize a portion of the Third Ward Urban Farm across the street from Texas Southern University.
Michael Ojo, the Vice President External for UH NSBE, identified two contacts that got the project rolling – senior Chemical Engineering student Rabbiyah Baksh, and Craig Dunham, a 1992 Chemical Engineering graduate of UH that is now a manager at Dow.
“Rabbiayh served as our 2019-20 president, and interned with Dow,” Ojo said. “She found out about this opportunity via a connection in their African American network. Craig was willing to serve as our internal sponsor for the grant. We have always done community volunteering with Blodgett in the past, and when we read the program guidelines, we knew another collaboration would be a good fit.”
UH NSBE has 150 members, Ojo said. He identified four major goals for the group going forward, and described each.
Emphasizing Our Brand. “Coming from a pandemic, UH NSBE wants to ensure people know who we are in the Cullen College of Engineering but also across the University of Houston Campus Community. This includes partnerships with other student organizations like SHPE and SWE, but also partnering with faculty and staff, like our advisor, Dr. Jerrod Henderson, and the Engineering Career Center.”
Creating Effective and Diverse Programs. “Our UH NSBE mission statement focuses on three pillars – academic excellence, professional success and positive community impact. UH NSBE wants to reach a wide audience with a variety of events to target niche groups and also propel the success of minority students in STEM at the University of Houston. Some unique events NSBE has had this past semester include Study Skills Workshop with Dr. Henderson, Sandwich Saturdays (Sandwich Delivery to the homeless around Houston), and Secure the Bag Study Nights (Career Fair study sessions to help members improve the interview skills, and prepare them for career fair success).”
Invest in Ourselves. “UH NSBE understands the future of our organization is the underclassmen. Going forward our main goal is to invest in ourselves, and that specifically includes investing in younger members of NSBE and giving them leadership opportunities to foster their personal development. NSBE is big on leadership , and this year we've given our members opportunities to lead events, and become more involved in the execution and planning of the organization as a whole. We started a Freshman Executive Board, which gives underclassmen the opportunity to see what it's like to be a NSBE officer.”
Success at the NSBE Conference. “In late March, UH NSBE will be traveling to our annual NSBE conference, located in Anaheim, California this year. Our main goal is to be able to sponsor as many members to make the trip to California and attend the conference. These conferences are known for changing lives with an abundance of professional opportunities, networking and leadership development opportunities. We want to give as many members as possible the opportunity to attend.
According to the project proposal, the organizers plan to prepare the garden beds for spring planting, to complete critical repairs to the irrigation system, and to make tools, materials and supplies available to maintain and sustain the garden. The project is scheduled to start on March 5 with an official Day of Service.
For more information about joining UH NSBE, visit this website or the group's Slack channel. Interested parties can also email secretary [at] uhnsbe.org. The community event on March 5 runs from 9 a.m. to noon, but volunteers must register with the group via the Slack channel.