In Conversation: ISyE Undergraduate & GTSBE President Ndeyanta Jallow
Ndeyanta Jallow, a fourth-year student in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) and Georgia Tech Provost Scholar, is certainly one of the School’s stand-out students. While maintaining a high GPA, she has completed an impressive array of research projects providing data analysis for Spotify, the Security and Exchange Commission, and the Atlanta Police Department, as well as an internship for Goldman Sachs. But it is perhaps Jallow’s experience with the Georgia Tech Society of Black Engineers (GTSBE), the collegiate chapter of the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), that has most defined her time at Tech.
Founded in 1976 by Robert Dixon (EE 1977) and then-ISyE Professor Augustine Esogbue (Tech’s first tenured black professor) a year after the national organization was formed, GTSBE is the third-largest organization on campus with around 250 members. The chapter won NSBE’s first-ever National Distinguished Chapter of the Year Award and for the past two years has received the NSBE (Large) Chapter of the Year Award.
Jallow, who is from Danbury, Connecticut, joined GTSBE during her first semester and eventually held three executive board positions, including her current role as president. As she shares in the following interview, GTSBE helped her find her place at the Institute. She also talks about Lambda Delta Rho, the organization’s initiative to help first-year members succeed, and what leadership means to her.
Why is it important to have a group that represents black engineering students on Tech’s campus?
GTSBE serves the purpose of making sure that we're not only leading people toward STEM fields but also are letting them know they actually have a place there. Tech is such a large school that when I came here, it was initially very hard for me to find my place. GTSBE has made me believe that I have a seat at the table when it comes to engineering.
When I am at work in an office environment, I may be the only person at the table who looks like me. But I can go to a GTSBE meeting and be with many like-minded passionate engineers. Seeing everyone’s success – and how we all want to be world-changers – fuels my passion for the organization even more.
In addition, you can’t forget about the people who haven’t gotten here yet. We work both with high school students and college students across Atlanta, and we are the bridge that connects them to engineering. We are able to reach out to them and say, “This is a field for you. You can see yourself here.” There’s a personal connection. I think back to my mentors and fellow students who brought me into GTSBE, and how I saw myself in them. They gave me the confidence and support I need to succeed as an engineer.
What is Lambda Delta Rho?
Georgia Tech students are very smart, but when you first get here, it can be shocking how difficult the Institute is. So in conjunction with the Lambda Delta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., we designed Lambda Delta Rho (LDR) to not only provide academic support but also mentorship and leadership. It’s important to succeed academically, of course, but there's so much more to college than just studying. We wanted to create a sense of community early on in our first-years’ experience.
LDR functions like a mini-GTSBE. At the beginning of the fall semester, the first-years run for offices that have counterparts in the larger GTSBE executive board. They start with zero dollars, and the goal is to raise enough money to give several scholarships to the next incoming class.
My first year at Tech, I was co-programs chair for LDR. A friend of mine and I planned all of LDR’s big events that helped us raise money throughout the year. At the end of the year, we had raised $3,000 and gave three $1,000 scholarships to the class after us. It was amazing to see how we first-years started off with nothing and successfully reached that end goal.
LDR is also a leadership pipeline. It helps us identify those students who have leadership capabilities and talent early on, and then we help them grow even more to achieve the leadership goals they want. In my case, two past GTSBE presidents, Niya Abdulkadir (ChE 19) and Shanice Saunders (BSBA 17), who both identified me within LDR and saw the passion, love, and dedication I had for the organization very early on. And they've cultivated me all the way to where I am today.
Tell us more about that.
At the end of my first year, Niya and Shanice wanted me to transition to the GTSBE executive board, and I was so focused on academics that initially I didn’t think I could do it. They sat me down and said, “We promise you – you’re going to be able to do both. We see so much potential in you, and we’ll be here for you.”
I took their advice and decided to apply for the exec board, and I’m so grateful that I did, because I have grown a tremendous amount. Through their mentorship and my GTSBE leadership experiences, I’ve learned so much about how the world works, how to interact with people, and how to successfully lead an organization.
GTSBE has several K-12 initiatives. What is one of them?
We do an annual event called STEAM Expo, which is held in Clough on a Saturday afternoon. We have anywhere between 150-200 K-12 students who participate in STEAM-related activities. Kindergarteners might make slime and learn about the chemical properties of its composition, while 12th graders might have a live coding session.
We’ve gotten great feedback from the parents about how well this event introduces kids to STEAM and the possible majors and careers within those fields. It’s important to have conversations early on about what engineering – for example – is, so students can see themselves as future engineers.
Why is leadership important to you?
For me, leadership is all about serving others. I have never wanted to get involved in something just to have a line on my resume. I really want to help others get to where they want to be. It has been a way a give back to the organization and people who gave so much to me.
It’s also important to think about the future. Of course we have goals and dreams that we want to achieve this year, but let’s also think about the people who will be in these seats 10 years from now – what are we doing today that will sustain GTSBE? As we put on annual events and continue to foster the development of our membership, we are asking the important questions to ensure that our members understand our purpose, enjoy their time within the organization and can share their experiences with those who are to follow. When I think about the reasons why I joined the organization, it was largely because of great stories I was told from those who came before me. In addition to this, all that we are able to do within GTSBE stems from the support of our corporate sponsors. And so, as our members graduate and move onto their respective fields, we always ask them to think back to their undergraduate days and consider us when it comes time to make decisions about campus wide partnerships.