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UC Merced Student Engineers Score at Conference

December 19, 2008

UC Merced senior Veronica Young didn’t know what to expect when she decided to attend a regional conference hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

At first, Young wasn’t going to go at all, thinking it would better to attend organization’s larger national conference. But two of her fellow engineering majors, who were also members of NSBE’s student chapter at UC Merced, convinced her otherwise. She’s glad she took their advice.

During last month’s two-day conference, held at the Microsoft complex in Redmond, Wash., Young landed an interview with a company she wants to work for, presented her resume to two other potential employers and forged networks with countless engineering students and professionals. Furthermore, Young and her UC Merced colleagues entered – and won – an academic competition, taking first place against teams from Stanford, USC, UCLA and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Not a bad list of accomplishments, especially since it was the first professional conference Young had ever attended.

“There was so much going on that it was a bit overwhelming at first,” Young said. “But I learned a lot. I was able to see what kinds of jobs are out there that are related to my field of study.”

The students who attended the regional conference – Young, bioengineering majors Christian Ayeni and Anley “T” Tefera and mechanical engineer Rebekah Johnson – were able to do so thanks to financial support from Pacific Gas & Electric. PG&E has a five-year partnership with the School of Engineering to support student recruitment and retention programs. Additional support was provided by the UC Merced Office of Student Life and the NSBE organization.

Tomiko Hale, the school’s graduate studies coordinator and an advisor to UC Merced’s NSBE student chapter, said that students benefit tremendously by attending professional development conferences.

“These types of conferences are important because they expose students to professionals in their field,” said Hale. “This is where they can get exposure to the hiring process and learn what’s new on the horizon with new technologies and advances. Conferences complement what is happening in their classes. Attending these functions helps keep students motivated to continue pursuing engineering as their profession.”

Young said that attending NSBE’s regional conference was “an uplifting experience.”
Now, she and nine other UC Merced NSBE members are looking ahead and preparing to attend the organization’s national conference in March. In addition to networking, looking for jobs and internships and mulling graduate school, the students will get to participate in NSBE’s Academic Tech Bowl. Winning the regional competition guaranteed UC Merced’s team a spot in the national competition.

“It’s so gratifying to me and my faculty that our students are gaining the confidence needed to flourish through their engineering education,” said Dean Jeff Wright. “The experiences and linkages that result from these activities will help shape their professional development — competing academically and winning against students from the best engineering programs in the world certainly doesn’t hurt either.” 

Team captain Tefera said his teammates’ diverse fields of knowledge and their mix of majors helped fuel their success and they are looking forward to participating in the national conference and competition.

“We will make sure that we compete at the highest level,” Tefera said. “We have received so much encouragement from everyone. It shows that everyone here at UC Merced really cares about students and supports our growth.”