Favour Nerrise, 22, is a Ph.D. electrical engineering student at Stanford University in Stanford, California, and she is the national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
She’s set out an ambitious goal to graduate 10,000 Black engineers within the next three years. According to the National Society of Engineering Education, which tracks engineering graduation rates, the current graduation rate for Black engineers is 6,000.
Despite the daunting task ahead of her and NSBE, they’re determined to find the extra 4,000 Black engineers to reach their goal.
“There are personal barriers, interpersonal barriers, systemic barriers,” Nerrise said of some of their biggest hurdles to graduating more Black engineers.
According to a 2019 Pew Research study, Black people make up only 9 percent the science technology engineering and math career fields. This is because Black students tend to face more structural barriers at a young age when learning about math and science.
Nerrise says the lack of access to tutors and resources are only part of the problem she’s come to understand while tutoring privileged kids in California.
“When you talk to these students, a lot of them, you’re getting tutored by a graduate student and you’re in high school, elementary school, middle school. That’s just not the reality for Black folks and Black students here,” Nerrise said.
Nerrise also notes disparities down to how school curriculums are structured at the legislative level. As part of the Game Change Plan 2025, she and the NSBE started addressing inequities with lawmakers.
“We stepped in and was like, this does not make any sense, and this does not work in a Black household and if you were to tell a Black household parent your kid needs to be taking this [referring to certain math concepts at certain grade levels such as determining the perimeter and area of shapes in third grade or functions and probability in the sixth grade], they wouldn’t even know what that means so that’s been a huge issue where having folks include us [Black people] in the room when they make policies like this,” Nerrise said.
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