February is Black History Month.
Learn about just some of the achievements and unique experiences of members of Memorial’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers as they navigate their engineering studies, as well as insights from alumni about what it’s like post-graduation.
Laughter Afolabi is a fifth-year mechanical engineering student. Hailing from Kwara and Oyo states in Nigeria, she chose engineering to combine her creative and technical skills.
During her time as an undergraduate student, Ms. Afolabi competed in entrepreneurial competitions, including winning the Ignite Fund for Innovative Business Idea, and placed second in St. Mary’s University Pitch Competition, third place at Hack Frost NL, Hack-a-thon and first in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Junior Design Competition.
“Studying engineering has given me the discipline, focus and perseverance required to pursue entrepreneurship,” she said.
Ms. Afolabi recently received a fellowship from Ventures for Canada, an entrepreneurial program that connects new graduates interested in exploring entrepreneurialism with mentorship, guidance and support from local startup companies.
Her advice to fellow engineering students?
“Don’t give up! Your first idea usually isn’t the best one so keep going.”
Success Aifuwa is a fifth-year student from Benin City, Nigeria. She chose to study mechanical engineering with technical streams in materials and biomedical engineering.
Whenever Ms. Aifuwa designs a new device or improves an existing one, she is happy knowing she is helping at least one person.
“As a result of my initiative in developing my own bio-med project, I landed a work term at BreatheSuite, which was very fun and exciting,” she said.
From Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria, Hadiza Babatunde has used LinkedIn during her undergraduate studies with great results and plans to keep using it throughout her career.
Ms. Babatunde encourages other students to be active on LinkedIn because, while the faculty supports students with securing work terms, the platform can help introduce students to recruiters and hiring managers.
“Putting yourself out there is really daunting, especially on such a platform where everyone shares so many achievements,” said the third-year student. “Post it all because networking is more powerful than we think.”
You can find her on LinkedIn at Hadiza Babatunde.
Roxanne Balemaken is proof that hard work pays off.
The third-year mechanical engineering student from Cameroon has been named to the Dean’s List.
“I am a work-in-progress when it comes to staying disciplined, but I believe that consistency is key for anything in life.”
Ms. Balemaken has advice for her peers.
“With all the technical concepts we learn in engineering, practice does make perfect and mistakes are opportunities for growth,” she said. “We were all uniquely created and our brains don’t all work the same, but treat your studies like a full-time job. Put in the hours and practice, ask questions and use the Internet!”
Chinedu Obi is a second-year computer engineering student originally from Imo State, Nigeria.
He chose Memorial for its reputation as a high-quality institution, supportive environment for international students and opportunities for hands-on experience in the field through its co-operative education program.
His passion for computers has turned him into a master in hack-a-thons.
“Participating in competitions has given me the opportunity to learn content that I wouldn’t have had the time to learn in class,” he said. “It has also been a way to network with people of all walks of life.”
While Mr. Obi has become good at juggling hack-a-thons and his studies, there is something that he prioritizes above everything else.
“As an engineering student, study time should be a priority. It’s difficult trying to balance everything, so I always prioritize my mental health.”
Ebbetien Bullard (B.Eng.’18) takes pride in being different.
When she came to Memorial, she was the only Black person in her class. But, she quickly formed strong friendships and valuable connections with other Black students across campus.
While her initial goal was to design luxury vehicles, she pivoted to luxury yachts after reading a magazine feature.
“I had seen many ships and boats in the Bahamas, but I didn’t know they could be so luxurious,” she said. “The article opened my mind to what I would be able to do as a naval architect and I immediately decided to make the shift.”
Today, Ms. Bullard works as a manufacturing engineer with Irving Shipbuilding. She has some advice for fellow Black women.
“There aren’t many of us and being a trailblazer is often isolating, but it can be very rewarding. Always offer a helping hand to other Black women who are trying to make their way in the industry, whether it’s putting in a job referral, critiquing a resumé or cover letter or offering advice. There’s no need for gatekeeping — there’s room for us all.”
Dr. Cleverson Esene
Cleverson Esene (M.Eng.’15, PhD’19) is currently a reservoir advisor with Suncor.
“It is fascinating to know that every day, my actions, responsibilities and decisions may play a vital role in the well-being of my community and the world,” he said.
Dr. Esene is a strong advocate for mentorship.
“I believe that an effective and well-defined relationship between a mentor and a mentee can have a significant impact on young professionals,” he said. “In my experience, I have seen smart young individuals who need help putting their right foot forward. I’d like to see more active mentoring in this space.”
His advice for Black students about to begin their graduate studies?
“Be purposefully driven. Any opportunity given to develop yourself and gain a competitive edge should be embraced wholesomely. I believe getting a master’s degree could set you apart. Life is a one-time travel opportunity, give it your best all the way.”
National Society of Black Engineers
Victory Aifuwa is president of Memorial’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter.
She says the organization provides support to a wide variety of audiences in the university’s STEM programs.
“At NSBE MUN, we hope to foster a community to support Black-identifying students and ethnic minorities enrolled in Memorial’s engineering program,” said Ms. Aifuwa.
The society organizes events centred on three core values: community; learning and networking; and the promotion of professional, academic and social development of its members.
For more information about NSBE MUN or to join, visit the website.