Growing an organization leads to growing leadership
Senior chemical engineering major Isabel Milton has been a member of Rice’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student chapter since she was a freshman. This year, as president, she’s seeing the groundwork laid by her predecessors pay off. The organization is stronger than it’s been in a long time and is committed to making a difference, on campus and off.
“We’re such a strong community now,” she said. “We have about 50 members and usually 30 of them come to our meetings every other Tuesday. For me, as president, my focus has been to make our chapter a support system for all of our members, across all engineering majors and class years.”
Milton is proud to see that the chapter has built a strong foundation, evolving from just a handful of club officers, into a supportive family of Black STEM students. Over the course of the last four years, NSBE has increased the number of professional development events and stepped up fundraising to send members to national NSBE conferences.
“NSBE’s mission is to increase the number of Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community,” she said. “When we send our members to conferences and they see thousands of engineers who look like them, that has a big impact. And we’re working on our outreach, currently planning mentorship programs with Houston schools to expose middle and high school students to engineering and other STEM fields. It’s great to be sowing the seeds for the next generation.”
As president, Milton works closely with the executive board to determine the group’s priorities for the coming year. Fundraising continues to play an important role, and so does helping members connect with each other and take advantage of opportunities. Recently, Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, attended a chapter meeting, talking with members and learning more about Rice’s chapter.
“As a former NSBE student president, I appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to have a successful chapter,” said DesRoches. “I am impressed by the commitment these students have, both to their academics and to the work of NSBE. They are an impressive group of young men and women.”
Milton said it’s hard to put into words what it means for her, personally, and for the chapter, that Rice has an African-American dean of engineering.
“He’s inspiring to me,” she said. “I was thrilled when he came to talk to us and learn about what we’re doing. It is so empowering for our members to see Black academic leadership in the field of engineering.”
Milton said her experience with NSBE has taught her the importance of working to steadily build on successes. In addition to her commitment to NSBE, she’s been involved with the Center for Civic Leadership. The projects she’s seen there have helped her to shape her platform as president of NSBE, building partnerships with the NSBE chapters at Texas Southern University, the University of Houston and Prairie View A&M.
Milton is considering her post-college career path, and feels drawn to opportunities in global affairs or outreach, even as she knows she wants to work in energy.
“Being part of NSBE has shown me there are so many ways to get involved, to make a difference in the world,” she said. “And one of the best is to utilize your resources and take initiative — and not wait for someone to ask.”