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Golden Torch Awards

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             National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is a not for profit organization, which is student-managed and has more than 200 chapters across the US. It has more than 30000 affiliate members (NSBE 2010). It is a body formed to encourage minority students studying engineering and to increase the number. It also encourages students to pursue higher and advanced engineering courses. It strives to increase awareness of black and minority people on the engineering discipline and the opportunities in engineering as a profession. NSBE effectively functions as a representative body on issues that affect black engineers and their careers.

            The mission statement of NSBE is to bring in more black students to the engineering discipline, to help them become good engineers and to help them make a positive contribution to the society (NSBE 2010). The need for such an organization started with Edward Barnette and Fred Cooper deciding to start a student society in their college, as in the 1960s more than 80% of black freshmen who joined engineering courses dropped out of college. The movement then spread to many more colleges in the country, eventually being incorporated in 1976. It has since grown to become a premier institution supporting community conscious individuals and aspiring black individuals. The legacy of the Golden Torch Awards has reached its 13th year, and NSBE has gone global to strengthen the cause of minorities across the world.

Award Criteria

            The primary objective of NSBE Golden Torch Awards is to support and appreciate outstanding achievers and young people with potential to become outstanding contributors to the society. The main criterion of the awards is a service orientation of the individual, and the excellence of the individual in his line of work or study (NSBE 2010). Eligibility for the award rests on self nomination or nomination of others, with recommendation letter required for self nomination. Golden Torch Awards also gives out student scholarships for school finishing seniors who are getting into engineering. The scholarship demands a high GPA, community service citations and references from three people.

            The Awards are given out in the following categories (NSBE 2010):

  1. Golden Torch Legacy Award
  2. Distinguished Engineer of the Year
  3. Lifetime Achievement in Government
  4. Lifetime Achievement in Academia
  5. Dr. Janice A. Lumpkin Educator of the Year
  6. Minority Engineering Program Director of the Year
  7. Graduate Student of the Year
  8. Pre-College Initiative Program of the Year
  9. Pre-College Initiative Student of the Year – Male & Female
  10. Pre-School Initiative Director of the Year
  11. Entrepreneur of the Year
  12. Lifetime Achievement in Industry
  13. Corporate Community Service
  14. Corporate/Education Partnership
  15. Corporate Diversity Leadership
  16. Mike Shinn Distinguished Member of the Year – male & Female
  17. Alumni Extension Member of the Year
  18. Alumni Extension Technologist of the Year

Benefits of the Awards:

            The Golden Torch Awards are an encouragement for the awardees to become better individuals. But the primary goal of giving these awards is to inspire the minority community to pursue education, especially engineering. Black students fall out of college more often than other students. Hence, black students need better support and need a platform where they can learn, develop and contribute to the society. The award gives black students role models in everyday life, former students from their own colleges being awarded.

            When s person is rewarded by his own community for achieving a certain goal or for lifelong excellence, then he or she is more enthused and encouraged and feels more appreciated. For organizations, which implement minority relevant projects, this award goes on to increase their commitment to the project and also improves the employee motivation, atleast the employees of the minority community. Such awards also add up to the image of an organization as socially responsible and sensitive.

            The downside of such awards is that, basically it discriminates on color and race. So, when NSBE was formed to help people facing discrimination get supported in academics, the award could be defeating this very purpose, by giving black people a separate forum to get judged in. Also, when an organization decides to do a socially responsible program for one minority community, other minorities may feel let down.

Past Winners:

            Dow’s Building Engineering & Science Talent (BEST) Program received the Golden Torch Award for Corporate Diversity Leadership in 2009. BEST is a program to induct more cultural diversity into the Dow system (Dow 2009). BEST is intended to introduce talented and skilled research people of African, Hispanic and Native American origin to the opportunities available in Dow.  BEST helps Dow recruit, train and retain a culturally diverse workforce, which it thinks is highly critical for its innovation based strategy (Dow 2009). Dow is able to sustain its commitment through the awards the program has received. The awards prove that the program is gaining social support and momentum.

            Ayannah Howard, Ph. D., Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Georgia Tech, was awarded the Golden Torch Award in 2009. This award was to recognize her outstanding professional achievement and community service. She has been recognized as one of the most important contributors in the field of robotics (Ga. Tech 2009). Howard is an Engineer and a Doctor in computer and electrical engineering, all at the age of 30.  Ayannah’s receiving this award signifies the role model she has been able to become for the community of black people aspiring to study engineering.


The Golden Torch Awards is a leading light for minority communities aspiring to pursue engineering. The proceeds of the Awards and sponsorships go to scholarships for deserving students. Thus, NSBE helps black people to be inspired by the role models set by the award recipients and also, it helps aspiring black students with scholarships. Thus, NSBE is involved in a significant community service in the places it touches.

NSBE founded as a student body in one college has today grown to more than 30000 members and more than a hundred chapters. NSBE has also gone international, in the cause of the minorities across the globe. This is proof of the socially inspiring mission of the organization. The relevance of the organization is that it touches the lives of thousands of black students in very practical ways – in scholarships, representation, sense of belongingness and academic support.

NSBE has slowly expanded to reward corporate citizenship for projects related to minority development. This shows the increase in value created for members. Such awards help black engineers become successful engineers in their workplaces. NSBE touches the lives of aspiring engineers, studying engineers and professional engineers, and helps them achieve their true potential, by inspiring, supporting and motivating its members.

Works Cited

Dow’s BEST wins Golden Torch Awards. Dow News Page. Web. 14 May 2010.

NSBE Worldwide. Web. 14 May 2010.

Engineering Honor. Georgia Institute of Technology. Web. 14 May 2010.

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