Mentor and Mentee: The importance of support networks

Deborah Dilworth and members of the NSBE Pre-college Initiative host open houses in schools throughout the St. Louis area to expose children to common STEM topics.


Deborah DilworthDeborah Dilworth dreams big. Whether it is her drive when leading major storm water and sanitation projects throughout the St. Louis area, or her mentorship of students exploring STEM fields, she sets her goals high. She returned to school to pursue a Master of Science in Engineering through UW-Platteville to support these goals, and she was quickly drawn to the university’s NSF STEM Master Scholar program.

The NSF STEM Master Scholar program provides scholarships to students in the Project Management, Engineering, and Integrated Supply Chain Management programs, and connects students with peer mentors and champions, who are active in their field. Dilworth said these resources will be instrumental to her academic and professional success.

“I’m really looking forward to the mentor and the champion helping me develop a plan to achieve my goals,” Dilworth said. “I dream large and sometimes that can make it difficult to know where to start. With a mentor and a champion who have experience from the outside looking in, they can help me focus and achieve those goals.”

Dilworth understands the importance of having a support network. When she was an undergraduate studying civil engineering at Purdue University, she found herself struggling. A classmate introduced her to the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Dilworth said “it became my family.” The group helped her excel and after her graduation in 2011, her connections led her to her current position as a project engineer for the civil engineering firm, ABNA.

Now, Dilworth is dedicated to giving back to the organization that has given her so much. She serves as NSBE Region V Professionals College Initiative Co-Chair and NSBE St. Louis Metro Gateway Parent Coordinator for the Pre-College Initiative program, which organizes STEM programs for students in grades 5-12.

“I really enjoy influencing kids to pursue STEM majors and helping them prepare for college,” Dilworth said. “I find I can relate engineering to almost anything they do in life, and it helps them feel like this is something they could do and enjoy.”

Through her work in the MS Engineering and the NSF STEM Master Scholar programs, Dilworth hopes to improve her knowledge of structures and geotechnical engineering, furthering her ability to give back. “I want to make things more efficient and more effective, but more importantly, I want to create things that are helpful to the environment and society.”

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