From the Classroom to the Job Market, CU Denver’s National Society of Black Engineers Helps Students Connect Their Passions with a Paycheck 

February 13, 2024

It’s one thing to figure out the career you want, but plotting out how to land a job is another. That’s where CU Denver’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is playing a key role for students. The group, which boasts more than 25 members, helps students network, build job skills, level up their resumes, and—importantly—make that step from college to career.  

Anis Benyoucef, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at CU Denver, helped ramp up the chapter in 2022 because he saw the need to provide networking opportunities to students, especially after the pandemic years. Benyoucef tapped some of his friends to establish a board, which has been organizing events with local companies for the past two years.   

“The underrepresentation of Black students in STEM is a critical issue, with only 5% of engineers belonging to this demographic,” said Benyoucef, who served as chapter president in 2022. “The absence of representation creates a discouraging environment, deterring many Black students from pursuing STEM degrees. I aimed to establish a strong NSBE chapter where Black STEM students [at CU Denver] could unite, fostering academic and professional success.”  

Yahya Hamu

A major focus for the group is creating opportunities for professional networking that can lead to internships and jobs. After several local workshops and social activities in 2022, members traveled to the organization’s national conference in Kansas City. There, the chapter won a national competition for a video it created about why its chapter was successful.  

In 2023, several members traveled to a NSBE regional conference in San Jose. “We were able to take 16 members and three came back with internship offers,” said Yahya Hamu, the chapter’s co-president. “What we do makes a difference.”  

From Campus to a Career  

This year, the chapter has already organized a networking night with Dynatrace, a global tech company that provides software observability using AI and automation and hopes to plan more activities throughout the year. “I want to do my part and that’s what keeps me motivated and involved with NSBE,” Hamu said of the work the board does to organize these events. “We’re all about providing opportunities to network and meet black professionals from companies, so you see you can do it too. And they are great about connecting you with leads on internships and jobs.”  

Zahra Abdullahi

For Zahra Abdullahi, the chapter helps create a sense of belonging and feels like an extension of her own family. As the oldest daughter of a family of eight children, she knows she is often trailblazing for her siblings. Every day, she figures out something that will get her closer to her degree and she passes it on. As the daughter of immigrant parents, both from Somalia, she often helps her family navigate the nuances of American culture too.   

“As first-gen, my parents really can’t help me a lot,” she said. “I’m usually doing a lot of firsts and honestly sometimes it’s scary. We know there are a lot of students like that here, so we really focus on creating a sense of community so students can feel safe, ask questions, and get help in getting their degrees, internships, and a career.”  

The group also focuses on helping new members adjust to college, classes, and career development. Hamu often asks new members: “What are you doing on top of that to differentiate yourself and make your story unique? That’s what is going to get you that job and that’s what we focus on here. How can we help you create your own story?”  

Anis Benyoucef

And they know NSBE is having an impact because they are seeing the results in their own academic and career journeys. For example, Benyoucef, who graduated from Overland High School graduate was named a 2023 Stanford SURF Scholar (SURF is a competitive research program where participants spend eight weeks conducting intensive research at one of Stanford’s labs). Benyoucef has also worked at the Collaborative Haptics and Robotics in Medicine Lab, where he supported a project focused on improving healthcare diagnostics using smartphones. And, this year, he is interning with Zoox, a subsidiary of Amazon which is developing autonomous vehicles.  

“Before NSBE, I lacked awareness of crucial professional skills like resume building, internship searches and prioritizing career-related matters,” he said. “Moreover, I didn’t have a sense of belonging to any community and felt alone in my journey through engineering. NSBE provided me with valuable space to learn not only about the practical skills but also about myself, my interests, and my aspirations in the field of mechanical engineering. That’s what [CU Denver’s] NSBE can do, and I hope more students join us because we want to help them on their journey too.”