Alec D. Gallimore, Ph.D.
Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan
On July 1, 2016 Dr. Alec D. Gallimore will become the first African-American Dean of Engineering at The University of Michigan
National Society of Black Engineers
June 7, 2016
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) will host its annual National Leadership Conference (NLC) on June 9–12, 2016. Approximately 200 black engineering students and professionals from across the country will convene for the event, which will be held at the College of Engineering on the campus of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. This year marks the third consecutive NLC at the college, continuing a partnership that was forged between NSBE and the university. NSBE, with more than 31,000 members, is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States.
The purpose of the NLC is to provide NSBE’s volunteer officers with training to develop their skills in leadership and other areas, such as accounting, fundraising, marketing, program development/evaluation and strategy. These skills are critical as NSBE moves toward attaining its ambitious primary goal, which is to increase the number of African-American bachelor’s degree recipients in engineering from roughly 3,500 to 10,000 annually, by 2025.
This conference places a spotlight on an extraordinary confluence of events. For the first time in history, the University of Michigan (U-M) College of Engineering will be helmed by an African American. On July 1, Alec D. Gallimore, Ph.D. — associate dean for academic affairs, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner professor of engineering and an Arthur F. Thurnau professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at U-M — will become one of only a few African-American deans of engineering at predominately white colleges and universities in the United States, and the first at U-M. It was Gallimore who garnered support from the U-M administration to have the university host the NLC: a substantial commitment over three years. Dr. Gallimore will address the NSBE leaders during a special session of the conference on Saturday, June 11.
“When I received the invitation to address student leaders of NSBE, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity,” Dr. Gallimore says. “I am humbled and energized to inspire the future engineers who will contribute to achieving NSBE’s all-important aspirational goal.”
Increasing the number of African-American engineering deans and faculty across the country is an important component of graduating more black engineers, because of a concept known as “self-efficacy”: an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to reach a goal or complete a task. NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D., a trained engineer, studied the topic as a doctoral student at Harvard University. His research suggests that seeing people to whom you can relate succeed in a chosen area of study or endeavor significantly increases one’s confidence in achievement.
“As a country, we need to increase math proficiency rates at the 4th grade, 8th grade and collegiate levels, especially for African Americans, as these rates are indicators for success in attaining engineering degrees,” Dr. Reid says. “And we also need to have many more African-American youth able to envision engineering as a career for themselves. NSBE is working to make that possible.”
This year’s conference also brings about historic symmetry. NSBE National Chair Matthew Nelson earned his B.S.E. in industrial and operations engineering (IOE) from the University of Michigan in 2015 and is returning in the fall to a master’s program in design science at U-M. As the oldest national chair in NSBE’s history, Nelson serves as a story of perseverance and overcoming obstacles. After struggling with academic and health challenges, he left the University of Michigan in 2005 and spent several years working to return to higher education in 2012. He subsequently made the dean’s list and earned University Honors. In 2015, the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach of U-M’s College of Engineering honored Nelson with its first-ever Legacy Award, for his work in diversity and his advocacy for nontraditional students
“My story is a testimony that black students of all ages can earn engineering degrees and become leaders of their community, even in the midst of significant challenges,” says Nelson, who is the third U-M alumnus to serve as NSBE’s highest-ranking officer. Damaune Journey, a 2000 U-M IOE graduate, served as national chair for 2000–01, and Delano White, a 2000 U-M graduate in chemical engineering, served in the post from 2001 to 2003.
Later this month, Nelson will sign a contract to bring the NSBE Annual Convention to his hometown of Detroit in 2019, a decision that will bring additional revenue to the city and expose its constituents to more than 12,000 aspiring and current black engineers.
Founded in 1975, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is one of the largest student- governed organizations based in the United States. With more than 31,000 members and more than 300 chapters in the U.S. and abroad, NSBE supports and promotes the aspirations of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology. NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professional and positively impact the community.” For more information, visit www.nsbe.org.