NSBE Profile: Balancing the Future and the Past

NSBE Profile: Zita Ackah“I didn’t start off as chemical engineering (major)," explains senior Zita Ackah, “I started with the intent of going to med school with a bioengineering degree. Chemical engineering came into the picture, because I didn’t want to go that long. I wanted a backup plan that if I didn’t go to med school, would keep me hot on the market.”

Like many that come to the Speed School, it hasn’t been the easiest path. A recipient of the Woodford R. Porter scholarship, Ackah has forged her path through a confluence of her heritage, her experiences in co-op, and her engagement with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

Growing up in Boone County, home to Florence, Kentucky, daughter to Ghanaian immigrants, Ackah appreciates her suburban upbringing.

“I really appreciate my time at Boone County High School, because I think it made me a very level-headed person. It was like very predominantly white, and the few black students we did have, there was a group of us that was high achieving, and the others were low performing,” says Ackah.

Once enrolling in the Speed School, Ackah joined NSBE soon thereafter, and opportunity that has had a profound impact on her academic career.

“For me, just connecting with people that are usually at my same learning capabilities. I have a ton of friends that are 3.5 (grade point average), 4.0 friends. NSBE was a place where I could study with people that learn like I do,” says Ackah.

She already has a post-graduation plan to work as an entry-level engineer at Sabic Innovative Plastics in Mount Vernon, Indiana, where she co-oped during her three rotations. She anticipates that she will work in, “More process control and more of optimizing operations to where you are minimizing your waste, staying on spec, and making sure that your operators are doing what they need to do.”

As to incoming students, she offers simple advice: get connected. It’s no small task to advance to become an engineer, and Ackah has an interesting perspective on the stresses unique to the African American student community.

She explains, “A huge problem is that a number of students come in on Woodford R. Porter. Because they’re more worried about keeping their scholarship they can’t afford to stay in Speed School, which requires a higher GPA than the scholarship demands to continue. On top of whatever it is that they’re facing, being a minority here, classroom sizes, or being who you are, either they lose their scholarship or leave to keep it.”

For Ackah, NSBE has not only help her to navigate those obstacles, but to form a relationship with a community of people that she may otherwise not have known. She says, “We are more than just a group of people that meet up in a room and host an event. We’re actual friends. We party. We have embarrassing pictures of each other. We’re really good friends.”

Read more NSBE Profiles:

NSBE Profile: Building a Better Tomorrow
NSBE Profile: Speaking Out on Engineering and Community
NSBE Profile: Perseverance and Family
NSBE Profile: The Value