In a dedicated effort toward ensuring equitable access to STEM education for Black youth, McMaster University’s Faculty of Engineering launched its inaugural Black @ Mac Eng event in Toronto this fall.
The event, centred around education, engagement, and empowerment, served as an opportunity for Black parents, children, and prospective undergraduate and graduate students to explore pathways to post-secondary studies, STEM, and immerse themselves in the vibrant ‘Fireball Family’ — Engineering’s tight-knit community.
Guided by a commitment to fostering respect and belonging in higher education, the event was led by Black Engineering staff and students. These leaders, including individuals in roles committed to the success and well-being of Black students at McMaster, exemplify the Faculty’s dedication to promoting meaningful Black representation within its community.
Engineering is for everyone
Black @ Mac Eng is one event in a suite of Black-focused programming led by the Engineering Student Recruitment & Community Outreach team aimed at creating barrier-free pathways to STEM.
Earlier this year they launched the Black Outreach STEM Series (BOSS), a program that combines culturally relevant topics and memorable educational experiences into STEM workshops. Staff led BOSS-style workshops at Black @ Mac Eng, giving the youth in attendance perspective on how STEM is applicable to their everyday lives.
Combining technical and creative skills to create practical applications, participants in the workshops got hands-on experience creating hair oil and Kente Cloths. Two young attendees shared their enthusiasm, saying, “The best part of the day was making the hair oil. We got to create a new oil and learn some chemistry. We also met each other while working on the hair oil and became good friends.”
Parents and guardians who were in attendance also got to learn more about how McMaster Engineering could be a great place for their child. One father in attendance remarked, “We learned about the support system and curriculum, which is information you can’t simply get from a brochure. This in-person event has made all the difference, and we now feel more informed to make a decision moving forward.”
In addition to running workshops, the event featured informative recruitment presentations covering undergraduate programs, graduate studies and co-op opportunities.
Members of the University’s equity, diversity and inclusion community were also in attendance to share their insights and resources. Representatives from McMaster Athletics and Recreation, Black Student Success Centre (BSSC), and McMaster’s Access Program presented at the event and provided attendees with the full scope of the University’s deliberate commitment to strengthening the experiences of Black students on campus.
“This event was fantastic because of how it connected essential services for Black students on campus. It’s about providing support and helping students adjust to the college environment, while inspiring them to believe in themselves,” said Ola Koforji, Black Student Wellness Counselor. “Parents can rest assured that their children are in good hands with professionals who understand their unique challenges. The collaboration of services like BOSS, BSSC and Access was a strategic success, showing that McMaster supports students cohesively, creating a community-based collaborative effort.”
Brianna, a first-year undergraduate student at McMaster, remarked: “This event inspired me and showed me where I want to be. I met a lot of staff members and had conversations about who I want to be and how I want to go about my life at McMaster as a Black student.”
A commitment to providing barrier-free access to STEM education, fostering the growth of the Black student body, and hiring Black faculty is crucial for creating an inclusive environment where Black youth can envision themselves.
Black representation is critical in higher education. It’s important that Black students of all ages see their community reflected in the world of STEM, engineering and academia. Black youth need to see themselves in faculty roles, holding positions of power, and having the ability to access barrier-free STEM education within their faculty, but also throughout the entirety of the university.”
Bridging the gap between community and campus
The Engineering Student Recruitment & Community Outreach team is engaging Black youth in the community, some as young as preschoolers, and showing them accessible pathways to becoming an engineer.
The intentional programming that aims to reduce barriers to underrepresented equity-deserving groups began in April 2023, with the introduction of Jodi-Anne Buckley in her role as a Black Recruitment Officer and Career Advisor for the McMaster Engineering recruitment team.
We know that racialized youth face systemic and socio-economic barriers. It is our responsibility to eliminate those barriers. Black communities are receptive to community-based events, making Black @ Mac Eng a vital component of our expanding recruiting efforts. Our role is to create an inclusive space where Black people are encouraged, accepted and invited.
“It’s so important for our team to break down barriers between recruitment and community, by creating culturally responsive and relevant way to recruit meaningfully and authentically through events like Black @ Mac Eng,” says Sarah Alizerig, Community Outreach and Engagement Manager. “To the Mac Eng team, recruitment is more than just numbers, it’s a sense of family, welcoming and being a part of the Fireball Family community, which is accepting, inviting and wants you here.”
Learn more about McMaster Engineering’s outreach initiatives and impact on our website.