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April/May 2010

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Black Engineer of the Year awards recognize high achievers

The 2010 event integrates Emerald Honors for researchers and scientists

From little kids to retired generals, there was something good there for everyone

When the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) were launched more than twenty years ago, role models for students of color in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) were few and far between. Dr Tyrone Taborn, CEO of Career Communications Group which publishes U.S. Black Engineer & IT magazine, joined with engineering deans of Morgan State (Baltimore, MD) and Howard (Washington, DC) Universities to change that.

BEYA founder Dr Tyrone Taborn of Career Communications Group delivers the keynote at the Emerald Honors dinner.Admiral Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs chair, left, and Ret Gen Johnnie Wilson, at right, give Gen William Ward his award.

The three founders designed the awards to “bring students to one area where they could see a number of successful role models in government, education and corporate America,” Taborn says. Baltimore was chosen because it’s close to many of the HBCUs with engineering programs. The Council of Engineering Deans of the HBCUs still co-sponsors the BEYA event.

Over the years the BEYA STEM Global Competitiveness Conference has evolved and broadened to include K-12 programs, events that focus on technical folks in the military, and now the Emerald Honors for research scientists. “This year we completed the merger of the Minorities in Research Science Conference into the larger BEYA STEM event,” Taborn notes. BEYA has also become multicultural: awards can go to anyone who advances the careers of people of color in STEM.

Even the little kids find plenty to enjoy in BEYA’s K-12 STEM program.New, interesting, definitely intriguing...this must be STEM education.

Besides the awards themselves, the BEYA conference includes workshops for students and professionals and a day-long career fair. The college-level track is called the Development Institute for Emerging Leaders. “We look for areas where we can compliment what’s happening on the campuses,” Tayborn says. This year’s program emphasized careers in national security, with talks by generals, members of the senior civil service and intelligence community professionals.

William Swanson, CEO of Raytheon, left, presents the Black Engineer of the Year award to Raytheon’s John D. Harris II.Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval ops, presents an award to Steffanie Easter of the Naval Air Systems Command.

Black Engineer of the Year is John D. Harris II, VP of contracts and supply chain for the Raytheon Company. Dozens more awards went to technical pros at organizations from Aerospace Corp to Verizon, government agencies and every branch of the military. The top Emerald Honor, Scientist of the Year, went to Henrietta N. Ukwu, MD, VP of global regulatory affairs for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

Awards recognize technical and scientific accomplishments, of course, but also salute people who have shown a strong commitment to diversity and mentoring. Raytheon’s Harris, for example, spent two years as executive diversity champion for the company. Other 2010 awardees ranged from early-career engineers to company officers and decorated military leaders.

Taborn reports that many top BEYA awardees now sit on corporate boards. “People are constantly telling me it made a difference in their careers,” he says.

D/C


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