By De’Marja Patrick
For The St. Louis American
Donna Williams is the business manager for Engineering Student Services at Washington University in St. Louis, but more importantly she is a mentor.
Williams has worked hands on as the administrative advisor with the students of the National Society of Black Engineers organization since 2002, even though her commitment to the organization goes beyond her formal association. Williams is only the third advisor of the Washington University NSBE chapter since its initiation almost 20 years ago.
“I love working with them; they’re a great group of kids,” said Williams.
As the chapter prepared for its 37th annual NSBE convention, being held in St. Louis through Sunday, they worked to involve the community. Williams mentioned that a big factor in the organization is mentoring locally to minority high school students.
“NSBE is not a social group,” said Williams, even though they have fun. “It really is a community service organization, which is more beneficial for them.”
As the advisor, Williams pushes the students to gain information for the professional world from the faculty of the engineering school at Washington University.
“They needed someone who is in their field for professional advice, because I do not have a degree in engineering,” said Williams.
Williams works with the chapter to put programs and ideas together logistically.
“I try to be their helper and work behind the scenes,” said Williams.
The NSBE chapter at Washington University is mostly student-run. Williams said she is there to provide opinions and make sure programs meet administrative guidelines.
Williams lends her time as a leader and mentor to NSBE with programs such as the Pre-College Initiative. This program will bring in approximately 150 high school students to campus to visit the engineering school. With a lack of minorities in the field of engineering, Williams said that the organization has been in contact with admissions to bring more minorities toward engineering.
Williams said that once a year the chapter brings 15 to 20 African-American students to campus for a weekend to provide local mentoring. During this weekend students from surrounding communities are introduced to the areas of science and math.
Williams said with programs like this, NSBE is showing minority students that “it can be done and we should be doing this.”
The inclusion of minorities in the field of engineers is important to this organization as well as the future employment of these students. This is why the campus-wide Career Fair is another important program that Williams and the students work diligently on. Students from the entire campus are able to upload their resumes for potential employers.
Programs and events such as these are why Williams works hard with the 32 active NSBE members on campus to get them out in the community to give back, because the number of African-American students in the engineering school is still small but it is steadily growing. Williams also works hard to get other administrative support for the organization and their events.
Williams is still pushing her students toward excellence and instilling the foundation of the chapter’s mission statement which is being “culturally responsible” by mentoring and servicing the community.
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