February 28, 2020
In celebration of Black History Month, U of T Engineering — in collaboration with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) U of T Chapter and Mikhail Burke, Inclusion & Transition Advisor — invited members of our community who identify as Black to reflect on their experiences, share advice for their peers or voice changes they’d like to see. The responses illuminate their diverse range of lived experiences and an ongoing need for systemic change.
Three students from The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering shared their thoughts and experiences.
Have you experienced obstacles with being a Black person in engineering or engineering educational spaces? How have you overcome them?
Mohamed Hirole, ElecE 2T1
“In my journey to U of T Engineering, I faced obstacles of not having the prior knowledge or access to STEM educational tools that many of my peers did. It’s uncommon for people in my community to pursue STEM studies or even attend STEM camps during their younger years.
It was daunting to come into an atmosphere where this seemed the norm and one that lacked a Black community. I definitely struggled with finding my place amongst the U of T community. But it is when you are at your lowest point, that you are open to the greatest change.
By taking initiative and joining student groups like the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) & NSBE, I was able to learn what it means to work in teams and build comradery along the way. Experiences and leadership roles in both clubs like these opened my eyes to the talents and passion students bring to U of T to inspire and enact change.
Sometimes you’ve got to do what others won’t, so tomorrow, you can accomplish what others can’t.”
What advice would you give to current U of T Engineering students/staff/faculty who may not feel like they belong?
Toni Thompson, CompE 2T0
“There is no need to feel out of place with people who do not accept you for who you are. The absence of conformity is individualism and authenticity. It’s OK to not belong. It’s OK to not be liked.
It’s OK to be yourself. That sounds like a lot more fun.”
What advice would you give to young students undecided about pursuing STEM?
Idilo Abdalla, ElecE 2T2
“Pursue your interests. I always had a passion for programming and learning new languages and I would always look for opportunities to learn more. Whether it be joining clubs, or volunteering. It is really important to take the initiative to explore your interests, it might be scary at first, but I guarantee that it is worth it.”
External Relations Manager
The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering