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Black History Month: Celebrating Black excellence in engineeringFebruary 3, 2021

To recognize Black History Month, McMaster Engineering celebrates the achievements of Black students, alumni and faculty and highlights new initiatives that will create a more inclusive environment.

Throughout February, the Faculty will showcase Black members of the Fireball Family through Instagram Takeovers and share mini history lessons on important Black figures in STEM on the Faculty’s TikTok channel.

Black students and alumni will also be featured in Q&A spotlights where they will share their Mac Eng experience, career accomplishments and their thoughts on McMaster Engineering’s three new initiatives to support equity, diversity and inclusion.

The first initiative, launched this past November, will appoint up to twelve emerging and established Black academics and scholars.

“This initiative will put McMaster and the Faculty of Engineering in a leadership position among Canadian universities in pursuing top black scholars and educators,” says Jamal Deen, Distinguished University Professor, Faculty of Engineering.

Deen is also an Honorary Co-Chair of the African Caribbean Faculty Association of McMaster (ACFAM) and is deeply involved in the cohort hiring initiative.

“I am delighted that the senior administration has quickly seized this opportunity to increase the representation of black faculty,” he adds.

Deen says the ACFAM has also strengthened their mentorship program for black graduate students and researchers and are now putting together a mentorship document for the new faculty hires.

This past December, the Faculty supported the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) McMaster Chapter in launching a new scholarship for Canadian Black students entering the Faculty in December 2020. The NSBE McMaster Chapter Entrance Award will provide $2,500 a year to first-year Black students who demonstrate strong leadership skills and valuable contributions to their community.

“For many Black students from underprivileged communities, they don’t think engineering is a space for them,” says Feyisayo Enuiyin, NSBE McMaster Chapter's president and chemical engineering student in her final year. 

“This scholarship was created for students who didn’t even know they wanted to study engineering. It creates hope for students to show they are going to a school that supports them.”

Enuiyin was recently interviewed by CBC Hamilton and The Spectator about the scholarship, likely the first of its kind in Canada.

NSBE McMaster Chapter has raised over $15,000 for the award and they hope to reach their goal of $62,500. You can support the fund here

Most recently, the Faculty partnered with five other Ontario universities to release new fellowships to expand the pathways for Indigenous and Black students pursuing doctoral degrees in engineering.

The Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology (IBET) Momentum Fellowships aim to address the urgent need to encourage and support the pursuit of graduate studies by underrepresented groups.

“The Fellowships will help McMaster and other Ontario universities work towards greater diversity in engineering and technology programs at McMaster,” says Ishwar K. Puri, Dean of Engineering. “A more inclusive environment leads to better perspectives, innovation and problem-solving approaches.”

“The evidence is clear that certain groups do not enjoy equal opportunity to enter and succeed in university — Black peoples are among those in our society and community whose opportunities are profoundly diminished due to unconscious bias, explicit bigotry, or systemic barriers,” says Arig al Shaibah (she/her), Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion in a recent message on supporting black excellence.

“This is a fact, and it is the reason why we have strategic scholarships for Black students to remedy persistent barriers and support inclusive excellence.”

Stay up to date on upcoming Black History Month events at McMaster and make sure to follow @mcmastereng on Instagram and TikTok for more Black History Month content.