I am the 2021-2022 Region 6 Technical OutReach and Community Help (TORCH) Chair for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) organization. I was encouraged to run for this position by another member of the USC NSBE chapter, and I am really grateful I had people around me that encouraged me to pursue leadership positions and believed in me. As TORCH chair, I help connect NSBE to the greater community. NSBE’s TORCH program encourages members to use their technical skills to make a positive impact and to promote and provide exposure to STEM fields.
I decided to join the REB because I wanted to give back to NSBE because the organization has had such a positive impact on my college experience so far. I specifically was drawn to run for TORCH chair because I participated in NSBE programming in high school that allowed me to meet professional Black engineers and learn more about STEM. I am also passionate about community-building and using STEM to uplift communities, so I loved the idea of being TORCH chair.
Much of my time this year as TORCH chair has involved planning two conferences that the Region hosts. One conference is the Regional Leadership Conference, which helps collegiate chapter leaders develop skills and methods to support their membership, and the other is the Fall Regional Conference, which hosts workshops, general sessions, and a career fair for all members of the region.
As conference planners, the Regional Executive Board is in charge of setting an agenda for the conference, setting registration rates, inviting speakers and presenters for workshops, engaging with corporate sponsors, and much more. It has been really interesting for me to see what goes into planning a conference, and honestly, there are a lot more things to keep track of than I would have assumed. Luckily, the Regional Executive Board works really well together and we have wonderful advisors who help us stay on track and complete all the necessary tasks. Planning the conference is definitely time-consuming; we have weekly 1-2 hour meetings for months prior to the conference, but it’s definitely a really rewarding experience when the conference day comes.
One thing I learned in the process of planning this conference is how to be flexible. Our board is only 5 people, so to plan these two conferences we each had to be flexible in our roles. Especially for the Regional Leadership Conference, I ended up doing a lot of public relations and advertising on social media. This was definitely new to me and I had to learn how to use new software and programs.
Finally, one more thing I have learned is that these conferences are great resources! I have not been able to attend one in-person yet, but even the virtual conferences have had engaging workshops, competitions (with prizes!), and speakers that helped me learn a lot and network with other black engineers. It is always great to see so many Black engineers in one place, and it motivates me. Also, the career fairs at the conferences are great opportunities to network with companies and receive internship opportunities. I would definitely recommend these conferences to anyone. Plus, some students can even get funding for the conference through the Center for Engineering Diversity!