The NYU Tandon School of Engineering is a demanding academic environment. By finding a community and learning from one another, students have a better chance of rising to the challenge and thriving. However, for many male Black and Latino students—populations that are often underrepresented in STEM—finding a community doesn’t come easily. That’s why My Brother’s Keeper @ Tandon (more familiarly known as MyBK @ T) helps bridge that gap by creating a pathway to supportive connections and resources.
Building a Community
Professor Wendell Thomas is a coordinator and core member of the MyBK @ T initiative. He witnessed the need for stronger connections among his male Black and Latino students. “The typical engineering student metaphorically puts their head down and just works. They isolate themselves so deeply that if they do associate with other people, it’s rare,” Professor Thomas says. “We found out that they want to socialize with one another, they want to get to know one another. But they need that push.” So, in 2018, he helped launch the initiative as a way to alleviate that isolation.
My Brother’s Keeper aims to create a tight-knit community of Black and Latino men at Tandon. Together, they attend to each other and support each other in achieving their academic and professional goals. As a result, historically marginalized male students can find a sense of belonging.
A Purposeful Brotherhood
To help students connect, My Brother’s Keeper hosts activities and outings centering sports, movies, and other common interests. At the same time, seminars and workshops on topics like financial literacy help them find success on their own terms. What’s more, the program introduces members to helpful campus resources. They can even participate in a video project where they answer questions each year, then review a video montage to determine their own growth. Plus, there’s the occasional free food and swag.
“My Brother’s Keeper has allowed me to feel a sense of community in a school where I am not really represented,” says Joshua Fleurentin. He’s a first-year Civil Engineering major. “Getting to know others who I can relate to more through fun activities has brought me comfort. It’s made the adjustment to college much easier.”
“Being a part of My Brother’s Keeper has allowed me to feel comfortable in the college environment. Through the activities, I’ve grown to feel like I belong here. I see myself as a pillar of a community that embraces culture.”
Students who participate in My Brother’s Keeper gain confidence in their social interactions and communication skills. Furthermore, that social development often extends beyond the initiative. Students join clubs, take on leadership roles, and volunteer on campus or across New York City.
For example, first-year student Chris Brasil says My Brother’s Keeper has inspired him to engage in important conversations with his peers. “Being a part of My Brother’s Keeper has allowed me to feel comfortable in the college environment,” the Computer Science major says. “Through the activities, I’ve grown to feel like I belong here. I see myself as a pillar of a community that embraces culture.”
Recently, word of the program has started to spread. So Professor Thomas hopes the number of Black and Latino students in STEM will continue to grow. “I think this initiative and others on campus should really drive home the message that we’re not just saying the word ‘inclusivity,’” he shares. “We’re actually putting in the action toward what that word means.”