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Professor Carlotta Berry Featured Speaker at Smith College’s NSBE Luncheon

April 9, 2015

Berry Fall Profile Feature

Passionate Educator: Carlotta Berry, PhD, joined with a faculty colleague to organize the Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity (ROSE-BUD) program, attracting women toward engineering careers. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

Electrical and computer engineering faculty member Carlotta Berry, PhD, continues encouraging diversity among future engineers, taking her inspirational message to Massachusetts’ Smith College on April 9 as the keynote speaker at the institution’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student chapter.

Her message centered on the topic “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now: Reflections and Adventures in Engineering.”

Berry’s engineering pathway started after being encouraged to consider the career field by a high-school counselor. She earned her bachelor’s degrees from Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college, and Georgia Institute of Technology, barely having the necessary financial resources to compete the journey. A master’s degree from Michigan’s Wayne State University followed, while being an engineer with Ford Motor Company and Detroit Edison.

Then, Berry went “all in” on her dream to become a college professor, earning a doctoral degree as a contributor to Vanderbilt University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory.

“Make your purpose your passion,” Berry told the audience at the Smith College event. “No matter where you are in life, write the vision and make it plain…Try to make every move you make in your life an action that puts you one step closer to where you want to be.”

Berry continues, “I have never changed my vision, once I found it as a high school and college student – to be an engineer, be a professor…Be a role model, mentor, and change the face of the profession.”

Her op-ed article, "They Call Me Doctor Berry", for The New York Times, published last fall, attracted interest from Smith College NSBE members, and the invitation to speak at the organization’s spring luncheon meeting. Berry has written about the topic of increasing diversity among the engineering profession, especially academia, for the American Society of Engineering Education and Society of Women Engineers.

Nationally, as of 2011, African-American women made up 4 percent of all women in the engineering professorate.

That’s why Berry joined with a faculty colleague to organize the Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity (ROSE-BUD) program, a National Science Foundation-supported professional development and scholarship activity to attract women toward studying electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, and software engineering at the institute.

“Our goal is community-building and creating a network of support in order to bring change,” Berry says.