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UH's Future Black STEM Leaders Strive toward Representation in Energy while Inspiring Their Peers
Mia Brooks
Members of the University of Houston’s National Society of Black Engineers. Top row, from left, Micah Le-Masakela, Bethel Mbakaogu, Evan Sherman; Bottom row, from left, Jeremy Fagbola, Marie Abejide and Nick Miller.
Members of the University of Houston’s National Society of Black Engineers. Top row, from left, Micah Le-Masakela, Bethel Mbakaogu, Evan Sherman; Bottom row, from left, Jeremy Fagbola, Marie Abejide and Nick Miller.

Madam C. J. Walker’s journey from impoverished orphan to becoming the first female self-made millionaire in America, laid the foundation for her inspiring legacy as one of the twentieth century’s most resilient entrepreneurs. Her business acumen not only propelled her success but also enabled impactful philanthropy that served and uplifted fellow African Americans. What was the secret to her success? The following Walker quote might offer some insight:

“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and go make them.”

More than a hundred years later, members of the University of Houston’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) are taking those words – and Walker’s service-oriented thinking – to heart. They are using their experiences and perspectives to increase diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. African-Americans make up only 9 percent of the STEM workforce according to a report by the National Science Foundation, which also highlights a wage gap between them and other demographics in STEM fields.

This Black History Month, UH Energy is highlighting several exceptional NSBE Coogs and future STEM leaders who are tackling real-world challenges creatively and developing innovative solutions.

Graduate student Bethel Mbakaogu is well on his way to making amazing strides in the STEM field as a member of the GreenHouston team that won the DOE American-Made Carbon Management Competition. The group created a winning proposal for an optimized carbon dioxide transportation pipeline specifically tailored for the Houston area, with Mbakaogu responsible for identifying potential environmental justice issues, social impacts, and engagement needs.

Continuous conscious learning, steady improving and quick adaptability are the principles Mbakaogu upholds in the ever-evolving field of energy. Although he has observed challenges in the STEM field such as racial disparities, he finds strength in overcoming these challenges through determination and a strong support network. He’s since parlayed his resilience into a materials planning internship at Tesla, where he assists with the world's transition into sustainable energy.

“The positive aspects of the STEM field include the constant learning opportunities, the ability to work on cutting-edge technologies like my experience with Tesla, and the chance to make a tangible impact on my society with the UH St. Elmo Brady S.T.E.M. Academy (SEBA) team,” Mbakaogu said.

Nick Miller, studying to be a petroleum engineer and a first-generation college student from Atlanta, aspires work overseas and contribute to making the world a better and more sustainable place.

UH’s NSBE has been pivotal to the professional development and academic success of Miller and other future STEM leaders.

“UH's National Society of Black Engineers has been a blessing as it pertains to my career journey and experiences at UH,” Miller said. “It has been a source of motivation for me and has helped me quickly get acclimated to the culture here.”

Thanks to this organization and the mentorship of Jerrod Henderson, an assistant professor at the Cullen College of Engineering, Miller has successfully networked with and marketed himself to future employers – a trait that Walker would certainly be proud of.

“Since meeting Dr. Henderson, it has been nothing but positivity. He has taken me under his wing with no hesitation,” Miller said. “In addition to being actively involved in my academics experience he has made sure to take an interest in my personal life as well by providing a safe space, and introducing me to great people.”


As the technical outreach chairwoman of UH NSBE, Marie Abejide is excited to embark on the next chapter in her career as she pursues her master’s degree in project management.

Through NSBE, she has honed her networking skills and embraced opportunities to engage with companies.

She offered some advice to current and future students who want to succeed in the STEM fields. “I believe in active involvement in STEM organizations that align with personal goals and aspirations,” she said. “Throughout my academic and professional journey, I've faced challenges, including having my skill set underestimated. However, I've overcome these obstacles by showing up daily, putting my best foot forward, and remaining teachable.”


“No only means next opportunity!”

That’s the motto Evan Sherman, a senior mechanical engineering student, has lived by during his journey at UH. Sherman has learned to embrace the many challenges faced in the STEM field and aims to set an example for future STEM students.

“Balancing an internship, school, and being involved in an on-campus org has definitely been a challenge. Seeing little to no people that look like you in some classes definitely doesn’t help either,” he said. “All of these pressures make for some tough times and thoroughly test my time management skills, but it's because of these stifling factors that I've become more resilient through the years, been able to cultivate meaningful relationships with others, and further strive to succeed academically and professionally.” Now share some successes to show us that the resilience paid off.


As the vice president and program manager for UH NSBE, mechanical engineering student Jeremy Fagbola is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who are both engineers. Through his role, Fagbola works to further NSBE’s mission of increasing the number of Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact their communities.

“I am proud to have contributed to the growth and development as future engineers,” he said. “Furthermore, I have been actively engaged in NSBE's efforts to promote professional development among its members.”

A solutions-oriented thinker with a passion for aerospace, it is unsurprising that Fagbola is keen on taking the NSBE – and himself – to new heights, as evidenced by his efforts in overseeing marketing and membership efforts for this trailblazing group.

“I have attended several professional development workshops and seminars organized by NSBE, where I have honed my skills in leadership, communication, and networking,” he added.

Future government public servant and civil and environmental engineering major Micah Le-Masakela is tasked to lead the UH chapter of NSBE as its newly appointed president. She credits the group for molding her into the passionate leader she is today.

Le-Masakela said her leadership role is an experience that should prove valuable to her goal of being the future Secretary of Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy or a similar role in creating impactful energy policies. Of course, first she has to graduate with her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in December 2026.

“For four years, I have learned from some of the most driven and emotionally intelligent problem-solvers helping increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community,” she said. “Seeing the impact I have made within the black community on campus and the NSBE in increasing the number of students pursuing STEM at UH has motivated me to pursue a career in leading the future of energy professionals.”

Evidenced by their pioneering work, accomplishments, and an unrelenting will to achieve and inspire, these UH students are just a few of those paving the way for new generations of Black innovators in STEM and effecting positive change in our world. They are the living embodiment of Walker’s enduring legacy.

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