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An Interview with Purdue University’s NSBE President Mozen Mertami

In an effort to highlight the people who are leading colleges and universities across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to Purdue University and did an interview with Mozen Mertami the 2023-2024 school’s National Society of Black Engineers president.

The position of SGA president is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes in being elected by their peers to lead. Mertami, who is majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Organizational Leadership, is from Indianapolis and originally from Sudan. She is a proud Spring 2022 initiate of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

We interviewed Mozen Mertami, and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in 2023-2024.

Read the full interview below.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned as a NSBE president so far?

The National Society of Black Engineers is an organization dedicated to increasing the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community; that was founded in 1975 at Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana. In my journey as the president of Purdue’s NSBE chapter, the profound lessons I’ve learned extend far beyond the realm of professional development. They resonate deep within me, invoking a sense of passion and purpose that goes beyond the surface level of responsibilities.

One significant lesson I’ve gained is the transformative power of networking through meaningful conversations. These connections have been instrumental in securing vital opportunities, such as increased funding, expanded exposure for our initiatives, and fostering individual growth within my community. Simultaneously, these conversations have heightened our visibility, leading to collaborative ventures and recognition within the broader engineering network. On a personal level, engaging with diverse individuals has not only honed my communication skills but has also provided a continuous source of inspiration for my own growth as NSBE president.

Additionally, I’ve come to understand the significance of community and having a robust support system. Leading NSBE involves not only steering the organization towards its goals but also fostering a sense of belonging and support among its members. Building a strong community allows for collaboration, shared experiences, and a collective commitment to the organization’s mission. It has taught me that the strength of any organization lies in the unity and support of its members.

In summary, my tenure as the president of Purdue’s NSBE chapter has provided valuable insights into the power of networking and the significance of community and support systems. These lessons have not only shaped my leadership skills but have also contributed to the overall success and growth of our NSBE chapter.

How has Purdue University molded you into the person you are today?

During my transformative journey at Purdue, the university has played an integral role in shaping the person I am today. Beyond academics, Purdue has offered me a professional family within the NSBE, our Minority Engineering Program, and with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. These tight-knit communities have been an unwavering source of support, providing me not only with a platform to impact and pour into others but also offering invaluable opportunities for professional and personal growth. Through these organizations, I’ve cultivated meaningful connections with mentors who have become role models, such as Virginia Booth Womack (MEP director) and Dr. Anne Edwards (Director of the Black Cultural Center). These individuals have not only inspired me but have become pillars of guidance, enriching my academic and personal journey.

Furthermore, my involvement in Delta Sigma Theta has been a transformative element in my Purdue story. As a member of the Zealous Zeta Theta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, I’ve been given a platform to give back to my community and to develop into a better, more empowered woman. The shared values, sisterhood, and commitment to service within my chapter have been instrumental in instilling a sense of purpose and civic responsibility, influencing both my personal and academic endeavors.

In essence, Purdue University has been more than an academic institution; it has been a nurturing ground for personal, academic, and professional development. The intersection of academic excellence, supportive communities, role models, and the ethos of service has molded me into a well-rounded individual, ready to make a positive impact on the world.

What specific initiatives have you headed up this year (or are planning) and how do you think they will improve the school and surrounding community?

This academic year, under the directives of “Your Future is B.R.I.G.H.T,” I have spearheaded transformative initiatives as the president of our Purdue NSBE chapter. A core focus of mine has been on building a familial environment, as we are not just an organization. This approach has played a pivotal role in achieving a remarkable 32% increase in overall participation and fostering increased engagement in our membership this year.

In terms of financial stewardship, I have successfully overseen a budget exceeding six figures, showcasing effective resource allocation and ensuring the financial health of our chapter. This has allowed us to implement out-of-the-box programming, host creative professional development events, and foster a safe space within our organization.

Taking a broader approach, I initiated statewide bonding initiatives such as an annual snowboarding trip that initially started as a chapter membership bonding experience. As president, I expanded this initiative to include all Indiana chapters, fostering a stronger sense of community and collaboration among Black engineers in the region.

One of the standout accomplishments is the Scholarship Dispersal plan, where we strategically distributed over 10k in accumulated scholarships to students, directly benefiting our members. That not only support academic pursuits but also contributes to the overall growth of our members.

My commitment to service and education is exemplified through my organization of a Charity Gala, raising almost 7k for medical and educational resources in Sudan. This reflects NSBE’s overarching vision of empowering people globally and showcases our dedication to making a positive impact beyond the confines of our campus.

Additionally, through effective communication with department heads, the Engineering dean, and the Office of DEI, I successfully raised over 50k in funding for the NSBE50 Conference. This achievement not only demonstrates my leadership skills but also highlights the support and recognition garnered from key figures within the university.

Lastly, my involvement in leading over 10 student organizations in a week-long celebration titled “Black Connection Week” during Black History Month showcased the diversity and richness of the Black experience. From Afrolympics to Black hair celebration, Black Table Talk discussions, and a Charity Gala supporting Sudan, these events fostered a sense of unity and pride within the Black student community at Purdue.

As a senior studying biomedical engineering and president of the NSBE chapter, my impact is palpable on campus. Black students recognize the positive changes, increased engagement, and the inspiring atmosphere cultivated under my leadership. Multiple testimonies attest to the transformative effect of my leadership, making me a recognized and respected figure among my peers. My commitment to diversity, excellence, and community service has left an indelible mark on our campus, inspiring the next generation of Black students to strive for a better tomorrow.

How is your NSBE administration currently working on attending to the mental health of students?

Ensuring the mental health and well-being of students is a top priority for both our NSBE chapter and Purdue University. Within our NSBE chapter, we’ve initiated several destress membership events to support the mental health of our members. This includes organizing fun social and bonding events to allow students a space to relax and disconnect from school. Additionally, our mentorship program provides avenues for members to seek guidance and support from older students, fostering a sense of community and support. Overall being a big support system for one another, where we can all lean on each other. By actively promoting mental health awareness, providing access to resources, and fostering a supportive community, our NSBE chapter is dedicated to prioritizing the well-being of all students.

Additionally, our NSBE chapter participates in mental health awareness initiatives, such as Mental Health Awareness Week held in late February. During this week, we engage in discussions and activities focused on promoting mental health awareness, particularly tailored to the unique experiences of STEM students. We provide strategies for self-care, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing activities outside of academics, seeking support from friends, family, and mentors, and practicing kindness towards others.

At the university level, Purdue offers a range of resources through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). These resources include confidential counseling and therapy sessions, crisis intervention, and group therapy options. Purdue also integrates mental health awareness into orientation programs like Boiler Gold Rush, ensuring that students are aware of available resources from the start of their college journey.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership, to me, encompasses not only guiding and inspiring others but also championing the success and empowerment of marginalized communities, particularly within STEM fields. As the NSBE president at Purdue, I see leadership as a platform to uplift and amplify the voices of Black STEM students, fostering an environment where they can thrive and excel. By actively listening to the needs and concerns of our members, I ensure that their voices are heard and catered towards.

Leading also encompasses inspiring and empowering others to reach their full potential while serving as a catalyst for positive change. A leader guides and supports their members to achieve collective goals while also nurturing individual growth. Effective leadership requires strong communication skills, active listening, and collaboration with diverse perspectives. It involves demonstrating integrity, accountability, and leading by example. A leader must be adaptable, open to feedback, and constantly seeking opportunities for improvement and innovation.

Ultimately, leadership is about making a difference. It’s about using my platform to create positive change, to inspire others to believe in themselves, and to advocate for a more equitable and inclusive future. I am committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within our chapter and the broader engineering community at Purdue. I work to create opportunities for underrepresented students to thrive and succeed in STEM fields, advocating for resources and support. By championing Black excellence and success in STEM, I aim to not only empower individuals but also to transform our community for a better tomorrow.

Overall, as NSBE president at Purdue, I lead with integrity, empathy, and a dedication to serving the needs of our members. I strive to inspire and empower others to reach their full potential, fostering a culture of excellence, collaboration, and positive impact within our chapter and beyond.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think schools need to do to represent themselves online in 2023/2024?

Active participation on social media platforms is essential for schools to connect with students, parents, and the community. Regularly sharing engaging content, including announcements, success stories, and upcoming events, helps create a versatile online presence.

Implementing effective communication channels is also critical. Schools should utilize email newsletters, messaging apps, and virtual meetings to keep students, parents, and staff informed about important updates, events, and accomplishments. Additionally, schools should leverage emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to provide immersive experiences. Virtual campus tours, interactive maps, and AR-enhanced learning materials can create a more engaging and personalized digital representation.

By adopting these strategies, schools can ensure a compelling and authentic online presence that resonates with their diverse audience in the ever-evolving digital landscape of this time.

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture?

Watch The Yard is important to Black students and college culture because it serves as a dynamic online platform that celebrates, uplifts, and amplifies the achievements, contributions, and experiences of Black students within the collegiate environment. Through its engaging content, Watch the Yard highlights the positive aspects of Black Greek life, academics, leadership, and cultural initiatives, fostering a sense of pride and unity among Black college students across the world. It but also serves as a source of inspiration and motivation for young individuals navigating their academic journeys. By providing a space for sharing success stories, cultural traditions, and influential achievements, Watch The Yard contributes to a more inclusive representation of Black excellence, ultimately shaping a positive narrative that reflects the richness and vibrancy of Black student life on college campuses.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

Post-graduation, I’m committed to using my engineering skills to create a positive impact. With a background in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Organizational Leadership, I possess a diverse skill set. My vision involves tackling real-world challenges in healthcare and community development. Whether through innovative medical solutions or community initiatives, I aim to drive positive change and leave a lasting impact.

After graduating in December 2024, I plan to join a rotational program with a healthcare-focused company to kickstart my career. This opportunity will not only allow me to jumpstart my career but also provide invaluable experience and insights into the intersection of engineering and healthcare.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Mozen Mertami for her work as the NSBE president of Purdue University.

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