UVA Engineering Grad Student Elected Vice Chair of National Society of Black Engineers

One of the largest student-run organizations in the United States will have more University of Virginia engineers among its leaders in the coming year.

National Society of Black Engineers members have chosen UVA Engineering graduate student Kristopher Rawls to be the next national vice chair of the organization, while UVA Engineering alumna Racheida Lewis has been elected national secretary of the organization. Rawls is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Lewis earned her master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from UVA in 2015.

“With more than 30,000 members and a mission to graduate 10,000 African American engineering students by the year 2025, NSBE is among the most impactful organizations in the United States advancing the engineering pipeline for underrepresented groups,” said John F. Gates, the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion.

“In his role as national vice chair, Kris will not only lend his perspective and talents to NSBE, but also raise the level of engagement between UVA, NSBE, and our corporate partners,” Gates said.“At UVA Engineering, we are developing engineering leaders like Kris and Racheida who make a difference in the world. We could not be more proud of them.”

Rawls is a member of the research team in Professor Jason Papin’s Computational Systems Biology Laboratory, where he studies the metabolic networks of the rat liver, kidney, and heart.

Rawls has been involved in NSBE since high school. “I had great mentoring experiences and got to learn what engineering was all about,” he said.

His experience with the organization helped him define his interest in engineering, and has led him to continue to be an active member of NSBE as both an undergraduate and graduate student.

“I am excited to take on this new leadership position within the society. When I first joined NSBE back in 2007, I had no idea that NSBE would have such a large impact on my life and future decisions. I have been inspired to follow my passions and have been mentored along the way to help me become successful in life,” he said.

“With this new leadership role, I look forward to increasing the number of African-American students graduating with an engineering degree, mentoring other young engineering students and helping them follow their dreams.

“I want students to have the same type of mentoring and academic development experiences that I had as a pre-college member,” he said.

In his new position, Rawls hopes to encourage more participation from and collaboration between NSBE members.

“One of my main goals is to have more collaboration between professional members, college students, and pre-college students – helping members form the connections that will help them stay in engineering,” Rawls said. “I also want to increase member participation in regional and national programming.”

In addition to Rawls’ election as national vice chair of NSBE, third-year student Sarah Nerette was awarded both the Region II Scholarship and the Region II Support Scholarship. Nerette is a civil engineering major with a concentration in water and environmental resources, with a double minor in engineering business and global sustainability.

“I have been a member of NSBE since my first year. Through the organization, I have met some of my closest current friends. I have received a lot of support through their tutoring and study hall initiatives, as well as other general bonding activities,” Nerette said.

“As an international student, it was difficult to adjust to American culture as well as university life in general, but NSBE helped me transition successfully and has had great influence in shaping the person I am today.”

UVA’s NSBE chapter was also honored with the Unique Chapter Award for the O-Zone, which includes all Virginia NSBE chapters other than those in Northern Virginia. The award recognized a bubble soccer fundraiser that the chapter organized in fall 2016.