By Leslie Bueno
Savannah Lewis always had a strong interest in electricity, astronomy, math and science, but she wasn’t familiar with engineering. She had no engineer or scientist role models around her, so she didn’t know the magnitude of their importance in the world.
Now, Lewis is an electrical engineering senior at the University of Kentucky and vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student chapter. She has reached many milestones throughout her engineering journey, from accepting a co-op position with the National Air & Space Intelligence Center to being awarded the 2020 Outstanding Junior Award from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
As the first person in her family to pursue a bachelor’s degree and study engineering, Lewis describes the feeling as daunting yet amazing. She said she felt unprepared for what was coming, but now every accomplishment she achieves means so much to her.
“Also knowing that I am helping this profession become more diverse by increasing representation makes me extremely proud.”
As the telecommunications chair for NSBE, Lewis runs its social media platforms and website. Through a series called Member Mondays, students have been able to take over NSBE’s Instagram story and share their experiences as Black engineering students.
“Knowing that Black people are succeeding and excelling despite oppression and inequality is so inspiring.”
She has also taken to social media to express her advocacy for current social movements and share her experience as a minority student in the STEM field.
“I have shared how hard it is to gain respect from my peers. At times, I’ve felt as though my ideas were not taken seriously or everything I said needed a ‘fact check’ to be utilized.”
She believes that communicating these experiences about herself and her NSBE peers “helps shed light on a different view that people who are not of our color may not see or realize.” With the help of the Engineering Career Development Office, NSBE is creating more programming in professional development for minority students. Lewis believes pursuing an engineering degree could lead to systemic change.
“Engineering has a great impact on society, especially as we are becoming more technologically advanced. Because of this, we have to make sure that we are creating technology for everyone. We need more diverse engineers to form better ideas that stem from different experiences and backgrounds.”
In the future, Lewis hopes to start a STEM program for students in her hometown of Thomson, Georgia. She plans to have the program consist of STEM activities, educational field trips and college preparation. In addition to her program, she would also like to start a scholarship fund for graduating seniors at her church.
“My church family has always encouraged me to chase my dreams, and I have always wanted to show my gratitude by paying it forward.”
For now, Lewis plans to continue her journey of obtaining her degree in electrical engineering and applying to a space systems or aeronautical engineering master’s program after graduating. This will help lead her to her lifelong goal of becoming a U.S. astronaut.