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Black History Month: Why is diversity in STEM important?February 13, 2019

Students Feyisayo Enuiyin, Brian Kibazohi and Olayiwola Bakare share their thoughts on the importance of Black History Month and why education is key.

In celebration and recognition of Black History Month, members of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) McMaster shared their advice for the next generation of Black Mac Eng students, the need for diversity inside and outside of the classroom and what we can do to better support the teachings of Black history.

NSBE McMaster's mission is to increase the number of black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact their communities. The McMaster chapter's exec team provides members with academic support, social nights and professional development and networking opportunities. 

Olayiwola Bakare.

Olayiwola Bakare, 2nd-year Computer Engineering and Management student

What advice would you give the next generation of black Mac Eng students?

To join NSBE. They can form a community and feel like they're not alone in Engineering. It can feel lonely sometimes if you don't have someone to relate to. NSBE can give you advice that other people wouldn't normally give to you. Make sure you go to class. Do not skip classes — I learned that the hard way in first year. And speak to your professors.

Why is diversity important both inside and outside of the classroom?

It's important because if we don't have people to relate to, we could feel lonely. If there's not a sense of community built in place, I could feel like I'm the only person and there's no one I could relate to. I've read so many articles about people saying they're the only black people in their program. I was lucky enough to find friends at McMaster. I feel like I have a community. If there's diversity, I feel like we could all move forward as a community together.

If someone wants to learn more about Black History Month, what would be a good starting point?

Read articles. If you search articles and look up famous black figures in technology, you could just read about that and get inspired. So many black people have done so many amazing things. It motivates me to work harder and do better.

Feyisayo Enuiyin.

Feyisayo Enuiyin, third-year Chemical Engineering student

Why is diversity important both inside and outside of the classroom?

Diversity creates representation. It makes everyone feel included and creates equity. In my own personal life, diversity makes me feel more comfortable when I walk into a certain space, like, "Yeah, I can do this." In the beginning, especially coming from such a diverse high school, it's very easy to go around and ask questions and not be intimidated. But the moment I walked into my physics classroom, there was a lot of students there and I felt like I had to be put to the wall because I didn't feel enough confidence to raise my hand or ask questions, although that's very far from my character because I'm a very bubbly person.

If someone wants to learn more about Black History Month, what would be a good starting point?

I remember when red dresses were hanging up around campus to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Even if no one knew what those red dresses were, we all saw it, we all had questions about it. We were aware something was going on from the symbolization of that red dress. I felt like McMaster was very good at making us aware. You saw the red dress and it sparked questions and awareness from people. I'd like to see something similar for Black History Month. It doesn't matter if you're white, black, brown, purple, green — it's something you're aware of for the month of February, even if you don't know exactly why Black History Month is there. For me, knowledge is power and you can empower students to get answers to their questions.

Brian Kibazohi. 

Brian Kibazohi, 2nd-year Software Engineering and Management student

What advice would you give the next generation of black Mac Eng students?

Don't be afraid to shoot for the stars, because I do know when people apply, they feel the pressure and influence of what other black people do. I remember at some point when I was in high school and I was like, "What are black people known as? Athletes." You're influenced to walk in the footsteps of other successful black people, so you find a lot of athletes, that's for sure. If you want to go into Engineering and you don't find any other person of your ethnicity, people tend to feel unconfident. If no one of your ethnicity walks this path, you might feel like, "Oh, we're probably not good enough," or, "This is not what we do." Your ability to achieve something is based on your particular mindset. The possibilities are endless; you can do whatever you want. Create your own legacy. 

Why is NSBE so meaningful to you?

Whenever you find people who are similar to you, you feel at home. You create a sense of togetherness. When it comes to NSBE, it creates a sense of community and support where everybody nurtures each other. Everybody in NSBE knows we're a minority in this field.