SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Despite strides to increase diversity in our country, the Black community's representation in the field of engineering falls way behind.
During Black History Month, San Jose State University hopes to build this group on campus in the hopes that they can find solutions for the Bay Area and the world.
Black history surrounds the San Jose State University campus.
The John Carlos and Tommie Smith statues, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library and, on display this week, the faces of prominent Black engineers in Silicon Valley and beyond.
It's a group that SJSU Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Folarin Erogbogbo wants to grow.
"We focused on diversity in Silicon Valley for a long time," Erogbogbo said. "San Jose State University is one of the most diverse institutions on the planet and Silicon Valley is very diverse. However, we forget about the people on the margins."
The reality is that, as of 2021, only 5% of all engineers in the U.S. are Black.
The Black Alliance of Scientists and Engineers at SJSU has helped Black students connect to professionals in the engineering field since 1977 and continues to do so.
Alliance mentor Prof. Erogbogbo actively works to increase the number of Black engineers by connecting SJSU engineering students with professional engineers in Silicon Valley and across the United State.
But even with these efforts on the diverse San Jose State campus, engineering graduate Quinten Long says very few of his classmates looked like him.
"As you get down into the requirements, the students and the numbers kind of drop significantly and you start seeing the same faces over and over again," Long said. "And of those faces, not a lot of them were African American, maybe there were one or two."
SJSU prides themselves in placing their College of Engineering students into Silicon Valley and Long is an example of that.
The San Jose native works as an electrical engineer in the South Bay and was named the BEYA STEM Black Engineer of the Year for 2023.
Representation matters and Long hopes others like him can help create solutions for everyone.
"Engineering is all about solving problems," Long said. "You don't want one person solving a problem. You want a group of people solving a problem, because someone is always going to have different perspective or outlook of what you want and how you see the answer coming about."
So to solve the lack of diversity issue in engineering, through events like the one on campus this week and "The Black Engineering Week: Closing the Digital Divide" in June, SJSU hopes students can learn to project themselves onto these men and women and be the next success story.
"We want people to have an avenue to be able to come to San Jose as one of the premiere institutions that caters to Black students and allows them to transition to Silicon Valley," Erogbogbo said.
Because solving the world's problems takes all of us.
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