Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Karl Reid ‘84, SM ‘85 has long been interested in MIT and engineering. Reid’s father made sure he could say “Massachusetts Institute of Technology” from an early age and when he got old enough, Reid spent much of his childhood engineering and building his own toys. Reid followed in his brother Keith’s (Class of 1979) footsteps to MIT, earning his bachelor’s and master’s in materials science. Reid’s story of support and guidance isn’t typical, but he hopes that with the help of NSBE, one day it will be. “We want engineering to become a mainstream word in homes of color,” Reid says.
The number of black engineers entering the workforce each year remains very low: only 3,620 in 2013. But Reid is hoping NSBE can increase that number to 10,000 by the year 2025.
Reid became of member of NSBE during his first year at MIT and later ascended to the top student post as the organization’s national chair for the 1984-85 term. “At the time, NSBE was an entirely volunteer organization with 115 chapters,” Reid remembers. Today, NSBE is a much larger organization with professional staff, $12 million in annual revenues, and over 300 chapters in the US and abroad.
Thanks to NSBE’s growth, the organization now also offers programs and funding for would-be engineers starting as young as grade school. These programs include SEEK, a summer program that exposes elementary school students to engineering and math and NSBE Jr. chapters that support engineering interests for middle and high school students, connecting them with programs like FIRST Robotics.
Reid is particularly proud of the organization’s support of bridge programs—programs that help new students transition to college and build
community long before the first day of classes. Reid himself is a graduate of MIT’s Interphase program, a free, two-year enrichment program that includes a summer session, and says these programs play a big role in ensuring the success of students from underrepresented backgrounds. “If a student is successful in their first year, he or she is much more likely to graduate,” Reid says. NSBE raises money for scholarships for existing bridge programs and works with colleges to establish them where they don’t exist. “I don’t think I would have made it without Interphase,” he says.
As NSBE looks to add more programs and fundraising initiatives to reach their 2025 goal, they are looking into success stories like Reid’s. He says, “We want to see what programs and experiences support the retention of underrepresented students. We want to expand these experiences and make them available to everyone.”