For Donald White, joining a student organization changed his college career. During his sophomore year at Colorado State University, White discovered the National Society of Black Engineers. He got involved, attended a national convention, and worked his way up to vice president of the CSU chapter.
As a first-generation college student, support from his peers and fellow NSBE members was essential to his success. While struggling in classes in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, he didn’t have parental support because his family couldn’t understand the difficulty of the courses he was taking – he was earning Cs instead of As.
“I was doubting if I wanted to continue with biomedical engineering,” said White. “I considered switching to just mechanical engineering to make the load lighter.”
Getting plugged in through NSBE helped him turn his grades around. It also opened up internship opportunities, where he was exposed to what engineering is like in the real world.
“Some people have this misperception that as an engineer, you’ll be designing all day,” he said. “Working with medical products, there are a lot of guidelines to follow, and you’re not just sitting at a computer all day.”
White was also a resident assistant in Allison Hall during his sophomore year, and has worked in the Engineering Success Center for the past five years. These experiences, along with his internship and time spent as a representative for NSBE, have provided White with a support system and skills he can apply to his first job after graduation.
A heart for making a difference
Developing skills like leadership, community service, and communication helped White stand out while looking for a post-graduation position in industry. It didn’t take him long to land a job with Edwards Life Sciences in Irvine, Calif., a company that creates heart valves for patients who are at too high a risk to have open heart surgery.
White will be working as a quality engineer, to ensure the catheters used to insert the heart valves are working properly. His internship last summer was at the same company, so he was able to meet a patient and witness the technology’s impact on others.
“You think to yourself, ‘I can affect this one person’s life,’ but you affect a whole community,” he said. “Because this patient was really loved by her community, we were able to help more than one person.”