UT-Austin students celebrate Black accomplishments in STEM with festival

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Photo Credit: Lily Dayanim | Daily Texan Staff

Students attended the second annual Black Excellence in STEM Festival on Friday to celebrate diversity and success of Black people in STEM fields. 

The Cockrell School of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences hosted the event in the middle of Black History Month. Both colleges had presentations on influential Black people within the disciplines of STEM, as well as food, raffles, music and a dance performed by the African Students Organization.

“It is important for people of color to see others that had great accomplishments in the past and know that they can do it as well,” mechanical engineering sophomore Trent Walker said. “It is important to see someone like yourself succeed.” 

Walker gave a presentation about Ervin Perry, a UT civil engineering assistant professor and the first African American professor at a major southern university, who the Perry-Castañeda Library is partially named after.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Victor Winston said he wanted people to realize at this event that one face or stereotype does not symbolize success. Winston, Walker’s presenting partner, also said it is important for others to recognize success does not look a specific way.

“It inspires all people, not just Black, to know you can achieve anything no matter what race, what gender or what religion you are,” Winston said.  

Presentations were given on people such as Mark Dean, the first Black International Business Machines Corporation fellow, Katherine G. Johnson, an African American mathematician whose calculations aided NASA’s spaceflights, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman physician and to publish a medical text.

Walker said he hopes attendees learned about one new person from the event.

“One person may inspire them to further themselves in that field,” Walker said.

In addition to the presentations, food was provided from local Black vendors. They served jerk chicken and plantains from Tony’s Jamaican Food, sausage and brisket from Brown’s Bar-B-Que, and injera from Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant.

Mechanical engineering sophomore D’Andra Luster gave a presentation about Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit founded when Bryant noticed there was not a place designed for Black women to learn coding. Luster said seeing Black figures create their own paths in fields dominated by white people inspired her.

“When you can’t find something that fits you, you create something for you,” Luster said.