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Job Horizon

Plant the Seeds of Greatness: AMIE's New STEMs
By Lango Deen
Sep 4, 2013, 20:14

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Tyrone Taborn (left), publisher and CEO of Career Communications Group, poses with Robert L. Curbeam, vice president, Mission Assurance, Quality and Raytheon Six Sigma, Raytheon, at a luncheon held just before the Meet the AMIE Ambassadors event. Curbeam, a former United States Navy captain and graduate of Navy Fighter Weapons (Top Gun) chaired the hour long question and answer AMIE session.
Baltimore, MD, September 4---Advancing Minority Interest in Engineering (AMIE) launched its 20th annual meet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Baltimore Wednesday. Welcoming decision makers and professionals from the private sector, federal departments, and government agencies, was a trio of young AMIE Ambassadors: Benin A. Saffo, Shondalyn A. Smith and Lumumba Harnett.

Benin, physics major at Florida A&M University (FAMU), expects to graduate in April 2014. She has served as ambassador since March this year. One of her main tasks was presenting "The 4 W's of AMIE," a collaborative project designed to familiarize students with the what, when, where and why of the organization at the FAMU-Florida State University College of Engineering. Benin worked with students from the Engineering Concepts Institute (ECI), where she interned as operations manager/technical-cultural coordinator for 10 weeks from June through August 2012.

But stimulating enthusiasm is nothing new for Benin, whose community and civic involvement include serving as president of the Middle Florida Georgia Youth Congress, and adviser/mentor for the FAMU Student Leadership Development Program. As the pre-college initiative chair for the FAMU Chapter her job was to encourage K-12 students to attend college and pursue technical degrees. "It was going into the community and talking to high school students; attracting a new generation to AMIE," Benin told the audience, echoing words of wisdom from the 21-year old advocacy group. 

Founded in 1992, the non-profit organization’s purpose is to expand corporate, government and academic alliances and support programs to attract, educate, graduate and place underrepresented minority students in engineering careers. The deans of ABET(Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology)-accredited historically Black colleges and universities work in alliance with corporations such as Boeing, Chrysler, Constellation Energy, Corning, Inc., and Raytheon to create high performance computing and educational opportunities for minority interns.

During the summer of 2011, Shondalyn interned at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base - Air Force Research Lab in Rome, New York, analyzing cyber-security programs. In 2012, she worked with government and contractor engineers at the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command Simulation Center to improve performance of the Army's top warfighter simulations. This summer, she spent 10 weeks one thousand miles from her home in Huntsville, Alabama.

The computer science major who expects to graduate from Tennessee State University with a bachelor's in computer science in December 2013 was a rapid response, business application services technical intern at Raytheon's Global Business Services Division in Woburn, Massachusetts  Her job function was developing efficient software tools and programs using IT software apps such as SharePoint and C# for Raytheon customers to use in order to execute their mission and perform their job function without interruption to their schedule.

"I was the only African American in my building but people were friendly and took me in," she said. “I met African American employees from other sites who'd moved from the south to Boston and there was RAYBEN (Raytheon's Black Employee Network)."

Odetta Scott, a 13-year engineering professional at Raytheon is a member of RAYBEN. Scott has spent the past six years in engineering learning working in partnership with interns like Shondalyn. "I think the AMIE Ambassadors program is phenomenal,” she said. “It helps to cultivate student leaders to meet students where they are; make an impact and build the pipeline."

Hampton University (HU) Dean of Engineering and Technology Eric Sheppard has spent decades working to facilitate education and research training for students as well as develop competitive institutional teams.

"I recommended Lumumba Harnett for the AMIE Ambassador position," Dean Sheppard said.  "I am happy to see him involved and raise the profile of AMIE on campus. I am very proud of his leadership skills which will stand him well as he goes forward." Lumumba is an electrical engineering senior at HU’s School of Engineering and Technology.

Darryl Stokes, vice president of Engineering Standards at Constellation Energy, is current chair of AMIE.  One of the first African Americans in management at Baltimore Gas & Electric, Stokes is credited with changing the landscape of electricity distribution methods, and improved productivity, safety, and aesthetics of countless Baltimore-area electrical centers. He has worked to cultivate next generation leaders through his company-based mentoring and support of organizations such as AMIE.

"AMIE's fundamental mission is to attract engineering talent in HBCUs through ambassadors going out to feeder schools." Stokes said. "It's about creating a competitive and supportive environment and the three students (Benin, Shondalyn and Lumumba) are a reflection of that," he added. " AMIE is looking to properly educate and engage with corporate and government agencies looking for top engineering talent."

The outcome of an initiative by Abbott Laboratories in 1992, AMIE represents a coalition of industry and government agencies and the Schools of Engineering at ABET accredited historically Black colleges and universities who see a diversified workforce as a competitive advantage and an essential business strategy.

The 20th Anniversary AMIE Conference ends September 5, 2013 at Morgan State University.

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