“We set the trend, so hopefully other HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) will follow suit. It’s amazing to leave a legacy like that,” said Willine Richardson, a current transportation engineering master’s student at Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation (InTrans).
Morgan State University, located in Baltimore, Maryland, is a public research university and Maryland’s largest HBCU.
Richardson, who received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Morgan State, served as the outgoing president of the university’s Civil Engineering Honor Society (CEHS).
“We thought, well, why not become a national chapter?” questioned Richardson.
With the help of other executive board members, including fellow ISU-InTrans master’s student Jevan James, Richardson submitted a petition package in the hopes of transitioning their CEHS into a Chi Epsilon Chapter.
Since both Morgan State’s CEHS and Chi Epsilon have similar goals—to develop civil engineering students with the attributes necessary for a successful engineering career—this was a natural next step.
“The transition to Chi Epsilon means more recognition, opportunities, and resources,” said Richardson. “When you are a part of a national organization, you have more opportunities to meet professionals in the field, which is really rewarding.”
“Other engineers will see that they’re a part of it and say: ‘I know this.’ It’s something that will set them a part,” added James.
At the time of their graduation from Morgan State, the CEHS had 15 members, and will continue to increase each year as students are culled from the top third of the junior/senior class.
The Morgan State Chapter of Chi Epsilon will be officially initiated in April 2017 and Richardson and James will be chronicled as two of its founding members.
But for Richardson and James, their engineering careers have only begun, as they are both now knee-deep in their studies in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State and their research under InTrans Director Shauna Hallmark.
James, who hopes to eventually work in industry on autonomous vehicles, says that he chose Iowa State because of InTrans and the institute’s relationship with the Iowa Department of Transportation.
“No other school I visited had anything like it, an institute that caters to students, offering them hands-on research while they work on completing their degrees. We (both James and Richardson) had no idea what to expect from Iowa State, but being here now, I know I made the right decision.”
Likewise, Richardson, who is interested in many facets of transportation engineering, plans to complete her Ph.D. and pursue a career in academia.