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NSBE-WBESS History

The Wisconsin Black Engineering Student Society (WBESS), student chapter affiliated with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), is an organization dedicated to improving the enrollment, retention, and academic achievement of ethnic minorities pursuing education in mathematics, engineering and related sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). NSBE-WBESS is committed to promoting programs that increase academic excellence, corporate awareness, and professional development. We strive to meet these goals through collaboration with other student organizations and industry.

National Mission Statement

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) mission is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community. NSBE is comprised of more than 270 chapters on college and university campuses, 75 Alumni Extension chapters nationwide and 75 Pre-College chapters. These chapters are geographically divided into six regions.

The objectives of the organization are to:
  • Stimulate and develop student interest in the various engineering disciplines.
  • Strive to increase the number of minority students studying engineering at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  • Encourage members to seek advanced degrees in engineering or related fields and to obtain professional engineering registrations.
  • Encourage and advise minority youth in their pursuit of an engineering career.
  • Promote public awareness of engineering and the opportunities for Blacks and other minorities in that profession.
  • Function as a representative body on issues and developments that affect the careers of Black Engineers.
Regional Long Range Plans
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2007-2008 National Directives

Cultivate Leadership
Leadership is key to meeting our mission. We must provide each member with the skills to lead and serve, to give each a distinct competitive advantage in the work force and the ability to benefit those whom NSBE has pledged to "positively impact." As an organization, we will approach this effort in two ways:

  • Provide each member the opportunity to develop skills and traits characteristic of an effective leader throughout the year
  • More effectively channel resources and support to chapters and chapter leaders for membership services and development

Excel Academically
At the heart of the NSBE mission are the words "to excel academically." We will work intently to eliminate racial disparities in academic achievement, matriculation and attainment of degrees in technical fields, through comprehensive programs targeting these areas. In addition, we will recognize those members who truly live this part of our mission statement.

Expand the Pipeline
To truly meet our mission, we must address issues affecting the growth and development of the black community, paying particular attention to the engineering pipeline. We will establish a standard community presence and demonstrate our organization's relevance through our work in placing many more students into the engineering pipeline to address the nation's need to produce more technical talent.

Mobilize the Membership
NSBE members represent all that is positive in the black community. Our organization will display its broader relevance through community action. Additionally, we will continue to be the primary platform for displaying the vast array of black technical talent to the world.

The History of the National Society of Black Engineers

In 1971, two Purdue undergraduate students, Edward Barnette (now deceased) and Fred Cooper approached the dean of engineering at Purdue University with the concept of starting the Black Society of Engineers (BSE). They wanted to establish a student organization to help improve the recruitment and retention of black engineering students. In the late 1960's, a devastating 80 percent of the black freshmen entering the engineering program dropped out. The dean agreed to the idea and assigned the only black faculty member on staff, Arthur J. Bond, as advisor.
Barnett served as the first president of the BSE. The fledging group gained momentum in 1974, with the direction and encouragement of Bond and the active participation of the young men whose destiny was to become the founders of NSBE. Now known as the "Chicago Six", these men are Anthony Harris, Brian Harris, Stanley L. Kirtley, John W. Logan, Jr., Edward A. Coleman, and George A. Smith.
Encouraged by their on-campus success, Anthony Harris, president of the Purdue chapter, wrote a letter to the presidents and deans of every accredited engineering program in the country (288), explained the Society of Black Engineers (SBE) concept and asked them to identify black student leaders, organizations and faculty members who might support their efforts on a national basis. Approximately 80 schools responded. Many had similar Black student organizations with similar objectives. A date was set for the first national meeting and 48 students representing 32 schools attended the event, held April 10-12, 1975. Harris also changed the organizations' nomenclature from the BSE to the Society of Black Engineers (SBE).
It was at that historic meeting through majority vote, that SBE became the National Society of Black Engineers. The familiar NSBE symbol "N" with lightning bolts was chosen and it remains a distinctively recognizable symbol representing the premier technical organization for African American engineering students and professionals. NSBE was eventually incorporated in Texas, in 1976 as 501©3 non-profit organization. John Cason, also of Purdue, served as the first elected president of NSBE. As the organization grew, Virginia Booth became the first female National Chairperson and the first to serve two terms 1978-1980.

The torch symbolizes members' everlasting, burning desire to achieve success in a competitive society and positively affect the quality of life for all people. The lightening bolt represents the striking impact that will be felt by the society and industry due to the contributions and accomplishments made by the dedicated members of the National Society of Black Engineers.

NSBE has since grown from six to 15,000 members and the annual meeting has blossomed into the Annual National Convention, hosting over 8,000 attendees. NSBE has 17 NSBE Jr. pre-college, 268 student and 50 alumni/technical professional chapters. Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., NSBE offers academic excellence programs, scholarships, leadership training, professional development and access to career opportunities for thousands of members annually. With over 2000 elected leadership positions, 12 regional conferences and an annual convention, NSBE provides opportunities for success that remain unmatched by any other organization


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