student organization

AIAA at Syracuse University is Reaching New Heights

“How do we bring people from different majors together to create a collective community?” This question led the Syracuse chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) to explore new ways to forge relationships with the broader campus community. As the student organization welcomes new E-board members, they seek to strengthen bonds within the group’s membership and create a welcoming environment for all to join.  

“People in engineering typically meet other engineers – architects stay in Slocum Hall, engineers stay in Link Hall,” says vice president Theodore Todorov ’26. “We’re looking for ways to form new connections and bring people together.”  

Founded in 1963, the AIAA aims to shape the future of aerospace through ingenuity and innovation while supporting aerospace professionals to succeed in their careers. The Syracuse University chapter of AIAA contributes to this mission by hosting review sessions. These sessions cover primary engineering and higher-level aerospace courses, and club members can request specific topics to study. 

As a first-year student, Todorov loved being part of the club since he got to interact with other like-minded individuals. However, he noticed some aerospace engineering students he knew didn’t attend these meetings. Though the club was also open to non-engineering students, they also weren’t coming to meetings. When appointed as the club’s vice president, Todorov started thinking about ways to encourage more aerospace engineering and non-engineering students to join the club. 

“We wanted to branch out more,” he says. “We thought ‘How can we change that? How can we make our club more social?’”   

Breaking away from their usual meeting agenda, the club hosted an ice cream social to allow students to connect and relax. To their surprise, several students showed up, eager to mingle and fill their stomachs. This positive response prompted the e-Board to continue hosting more social events that allowed students to have fun. 

After the successful ice cream social, the AIAA has decided to host bigger social events in the future. They plan to organize the STEM Olympics, which will involve a campus-wide scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt would feature clues related to different programs such as biology, chemistry, and engineering. This event will also have prizes, and yard games and will take place before midterms so that students can unwind before their exams.  

“The idea is when people go to make their teams, they would select people from other majors or programs to have a better chance at solving clues,” says Todorov. “This is one of the best ways we can have students from different majors meet.”  

Todorov has been playing a leading role in organizing this event, in addition to assisting with review sessions and other duties related to the vice-president position. The e-Board has much more planned and is eagerly looking forward to students seeing what’s in store. They envision a bright future for the Syracuse chapter of the AIAA, not only as support for the future of aerospace engineering but also as a social club where people can connect. 

“I saw potential for the club when I joined my freshman year and I believed AIAA could be so much more,” Todorov says. “We want to make a big impact and are excited to see where it will go next.”

Looking to join or partner with AIAA? Click here to get connected!  

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National Society of Black Engineers at Syracuse University: Building a Better Future

Under the leadership of Brianna Gillfillian ‘24, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at Syracuse University has experienced a resurgence. By organizing interactive events to bolster participation, NSBE has rebuilt a community of aspiring engineers post-pandemic. It may come as a surprise that Gillfillian never planned on becoming president. However, when she saw the leadership struggle to keep the organization together, she knew she had to do something. 

“I saw ways we could impact numbers and participation,” Gilfillian says. “I wanted to be a part of the change that brought NSBE back to where they were before the pandemic. I thought I might as well give it a shot.” 

Founded in 1974 at Purdue University, NSBE is an organization dedicated to developing culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically and positively impact the community. The organization is open to all students and welcomes both engineering and non-engineering students. “Historically, the club was used to provide a space for Black engineers, who take up less than 4% of the industry,” Gillfillian says. “NSBE has been on a mission to increase the percentage of Black engineers over time.” 

As Gillfillian attended meetings during her freshman year, she felt a sense of belonging to the club. It provided a safe space where older engineering students supported and mentored her, guiding her on her engineering journey. She would eventually serve as the membership and mentorship chair in her sophomore year, and in her junior year, she became the president of the club, a position she still holds to this day. With a hardworking e-board, Gilfillian wanted to restore the University’s NSBE chapter back to its former glory.  

The pandemic impacted the club as they suffered from low participation, and Gillfillian knew the organization had to take action fast. She and the e-board organized interactive events such as NSBE Junior, a high school student outreach program aimed at inspiring young engineers to pursue STEM. NSBE Junior also provided volunteer opportunities for Syracuse students by allowing them to work with high schoolers, making it great for members passionate about teaching and working with the local youth. 

“NSBE also has weekly study sessions called ‘I-Study.’ It’s basically tutoring with club members where students can ask us for help in academic areas they may struggle in,” Gillfillian says. “We also have a mentorship program that pairs younger students with older students so they can have a point of contact as they navigate the college.”  

One of their biggest events, and also Gillfillian’s favorite, is the Black Excellence Gala, an event that commemorates student leaders and academic excellence. For the gala, they collaborate with the Black Honor Society and present awards to recognize the efforts of individuals within the student body. Students apply, get interviewed and the NSBE executive board votes on which student receives an award.  

“To spice things up, we also have a People’s Choice Award where people are allowed to nominate Black-owned businesses, Black organizations and Black letter Greek organizations for different awards to acknowledge businesses or organizations doing well outside of academia,” Gillfillian says. 

The student organization also participates in NSBE’s national and regional conferences, as well as AfroTech, the largest Black tech conference that attracts over 20,000 Black tech innovators for career and networking opportunities. However, a certain level of commitment to NSBE is required to attend these conferences. This is one way the leadership ensures that people who attend these conferences are genuinely involved with the group. 

“Every single student who had the opportunity to attend AfroTech’s conference last year was able to secure both full-time jobs and summer internships,” Gillfillian says. “It’s great for students to advance their careers and grow professionally.”  

Gillfillian is a highly involved college community member, holding four positions within student organizations and 10 leadership roles that are University-wide. Despite the busy schedule that comes with being a student organization president and a member of groups like the Kappa Lambda Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., she manages to balance her various roles and wouldn’t trade her role for anything else. Additionally, she greatly values the sense of community that the student organization provides. “I love the family-like structure. We’re a very tight-knit group and everyone is chill and close. We call ourselves NSBabes – it’s always a good time.”  

With NSBE Junior, the Black Excellence Gala, and AfroTech, among other events, the organization is thriving more than ever. Even as Gillfillian graduates from the University next year, she believes the club will continue to be a safe space that motivates future innovators.  

“NSBE is the best club to be. It’s great for ambitious young Black engineers and creates a lot of opportunities. People have gotten jobs, internships, made friends, developed their professional skills, and had a lot of fun while doing it.” 

Looking to join or partner with NSBE? Click here to get connected!

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at Syracuse University: Leadership, Community and Empowerment  

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Group Photo

Karen Herrera ‘24 knows all too well how much work goes into running a student organization. Having started as the events coordinator for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at Syracuse University, she now serves as the current co-president, which is a big step up in workload. But to her, the extra work is worth it. At SHPE, Herrera has been able to balance academic and organizational work and found a supporting community where she can be herself. “I didn’t realize how much work it would actually be, but it keeps me busy,” says the senior computer science student. “I love what I do and everyone I’ve met.”  

Founded in 1987 to empower Latinos and Hispanics in the STEM field, SHPE at Syracuse University strives to create a diverse environment on the University campus and help students reach their fullest potential. It’s open to all students and comprises both engineering and non-engineering students. Herrera was in a STEM program for underrepresented groups in high school so when she came to Syracuse University, she was eager to be a part of SHPE’s mission. Initially, she was a general member but her passion for the cause led her to take on the role of events coordinator. 

As the events coordinator, she helped organize the very first Brillanté Banquet, a grand event SHPE hosts to highlight Hispanic excellence within their community. And it was quite the spectacle. Taking place towards the end of the spring semester, the event entailed a catered dinner, an award ceremony, performances from individuals and organizations across campus, as well as a keynote speaker.  

“The planning takes pretty much all semester. We have to reserve the venue and submit catering requests as well as find performers and our keynote speaker. We also submit budget requests to be able to pay for everything,” Herrera says. “It was one of my favorite events last year and I’m looking forward to it this year too.”  

The Brillanté Banquet also gave Herrera insight into organizing large-scale events and communication efforts within the college. This instilled in her a desire to take up a leadership role within the organization and she would eventually become the co-president of SHPE at Syracuse with Julia Ruiz ‘24.  

“Our last vice president, Julia, wasn’t ready to let go of SHPE just yet. She loved the work and community too much,” Herrera says. “That’s why we’re doing a co-presidency, and this is the first time it’s been done. We communicate occasionally, and she’s a very resourceful person.”  

As co-president, Herrera oversees all of SHPE’s organizational activities. The organization is actively collaborating with several companies to get its name recognized, and it has received invitations from other local companies to collaborate. Herrera also spends time reading and responding to emails and assisting with event coordination and monthly meetings.  

“Our monthly meetings are where we discuss upcoming events, networking, volunteer opportunities or just catch up. We usually meet between 7 pm and 8 pm depending on people’s availability” Herrera says. “During a recent meeting, we took a break from our usual discussions and made slime to de-stress.”  

As the end of the year approaches, the organization also hosts a “Cocoa and Cram” event, a study session for finals where hot cocoa is served for attendees – something Herrera always looks forward to.  “Most of the time, it’s not that much studying. It’s just nice to hear how everyone’s semester went. It’s very chill,” she says.  

Another event Herrera is looking forward to is the SHPE National Convention in early November, which is held in a different city each year and brings in thousands of Hispanic students in STEM. With networking, workshops, and awards, it’s an opportunity that many students don’t want to miss.  “This is my first convention and I’m excited for the workshops and career fair. It’s going to be big,” Herrera says.  

Karen Herrera
Karen Herrera

As she continues to work towards her goal of breaking into STEM, Herrera has loved the close relationships she’s formed with the group’s members and the club has been the perfect place for like-minded, ambitious individuals with a passion for STEM to connect.  

“I love how the club has become a little family. Our meetings are so long because we get sidetracked and talk about other things,” Herrera says. “The connections and friends I’ve made here are great and I’m grateful to be part of this organization.”  

Looking to join or partner with SHPE? Click here to get connected!