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Monday, June 20, NAE observed Juneteenth, the oldest-known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and now an official national holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom for more than 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, the last confederate state with institutional slavery. It was two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. More about Juneteenth’s history can be found on the Smithsonian’s site here.
As President Biden acknowledged in his proclamation establishing the Juneteenth Day of Observance, “Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power.”
This new holiday reminds us of our country’s past and its legacy and invites us to heal and move forward in a mindful way. It is a reminder of the profound value of everyone’s right to equity and agency, fair and respectful treatment, and pursuit of a better future. On Monday we plan to reflect and learn more about the significance of this day, to inform our thinking and the work of the NAE. The day is an opportunity to remember that our unique experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds make us who we are and enhance our approaches as we work together to carry out the goals of the NAE.
John L. Anderson
Alton D. Romig Jr.
NAE Executive Officer
Racism, prejudice, and discrimination chip away at the very foundation of our society and undermine the effectiveness of engineering education and practice. Attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion and action toward their acceptance can help heal wounds, strengthen our efforts, and increase the effectiveness of those efforts as well as the engineering community.
While no one organization can solve all the societal problems associated with racism, prejudice, and discrimination, individual organizations can make a difference. To that end, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is committed to taking action to tackle this important challenge.
Through studies, member-led activities, and other measures such as those listed below, the NAE is focused on finding solutions and implementing evidence-based best practices on an ongoing basis. Each step along the way will lead us closer to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization, profession, and society.
Focus on the Committee on Racial Justice and Equity (RJ&E)
The NAE has a long history of addressing diversity in the engineering profession. In the 1970s the NAE helped create the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME). Since then, it has sponsored numerous activities in support of diversity. In September 2020, NAE President John L. Anderson decided to accelerate those activities and created the Committee on Racial Justice and Equity (RJ&E) as a presidential advisory committee, with NAE member Percy A. Pierre as chair. The committee’s mission and list of members are available on the committee website.
The first charge to the committee is to make NAE members and the public aware of racial injustice and inequality. In response to that charge, NAE member John Brooks Slaughter, former president of the University of Maryland, presented a special lecture at the 2020 annual meeting of the NAE: “We Must Let Opportunity Meet Talent.”
The second charge to the RJ&E Committee is to recommend initiatives designed to increase the percentage of engineering degrees achieved by African Americans. The committee initiated and supported a workshop on Connecting Efforts to Support Minorities in Engineering Education, which was held virtually March 18, March 30, and April 20. Sponsored by the NAE, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the workshop was designed to increase collaboration among the many organizations working in this area.
Related to this second charge, the RJ&E Committee partnered with the 50K Coalition to sponsor a May 2021 forum on community colleges and how best to use this resource to increase diverse engineering graduates. The 50K Coalition is a unique collaborative of more than 40 organizations focused on a bold national goal to produce 50,000 diverse engineering graduates annually by 2025.
The third charge is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities within the NAE membership and in the NAE’s highest leadership positions. The NAE serves the dual role of honoring the most outstanding engineers and providing advice to the government and society on how engineering can best meet society’s needs. To do that, it must be a diverse organization. The RJ&E works to identify and support the nomination of minority candidates for NAE membership. In recent years the NAE has greatly increased the number of self-identified minority members, and the academy solicits their support and active engagement in studies, workshops, guidance, and other efforts.
A fourth charge is to recommend ways that technology can be used to support racial justice. To determine how the NAE can have an impact in this area, a literature review and landscape scan in five topical areas is being conducted to help the committee identify collaborators and best practices. The results will inform the development of a framework for action by the RJ&E Committee. This effort is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Being an Engineer
Throughout the year the NAE will celebrate members and other pioneering engineers who have broken through boundaries and risen above obstacles. Their perseverance has enabled them to become engineering professionals whose contributions to their field have made a positive impact on society. The NAE is working to reduce and remove the boundaries and obstacles for them and for future generations of engineers who will help create a better society for us all.
The NAE DEI web pages honoring their achievements and contributions will be updated regularly. We encourage you to check back frequently for new information, updates, and profiles as they become available.