Future of Energy: AABE honors undergraduate students’ leadership

Sederick and Justin

The New York Metropolitan chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE-NYMAC) honored undergraduate students Sederick Dawkins ’17 and Justin Sutton ’17 last month for their leadership of the AABE NYU Tandon chapter. The reception celebrated Dawkins’ and Sutton’s work as president and vice president, respectively, of the AABE-NYMAC student chapter at NYU Tandon and their accomplishments as engineering students focusing on energy. 

Founded in 1977, AABE is a national organization of energy professionals that focuses on incorporating the input of African Americans and minorities into discussions and initiatives on energy policy. AABE also encourages students to enter into the energy sector, and since the AABE-NYMAC student chapter’s establishment at NYU in 2014 (spearheaded by Associate Dean of Student Affairs Anita Farrington and Consolidated Edison Government Liaison Director Gerald Dawes ’89), the chapter has matched Tandon students with professional mentors in energy and many AABE student members have secured internships and jobs through AABE-NYU’s networking initiatives.

William Suggs, president of AABE-NYMAC and senior specialist in Environmental Health & Safety at Consolidated Edison, noted how AABE-NYMAC wanted to acknowledge and honor both Dawkins and Sutton for their exceptional leadership and passion. “They’ve really taken this student chapter to another level,” Suggs said. “Their work as part of the NYU chapter can help involve other young people, to provide exposure [to energy] and to be our next generation of energy professionals.”

One such exposure is AABE-NYU’s Energy Challenge, where student teams create projects aimed towards improving and implementing initiatives in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and infrastructure and urban development. The Challenge will occur every two years, Dawkins, a senior majoring in civil engineering and construction management, said. “NYU has a lot to offer. We want to encourage students to enter other competitions to further their goals, while also making sure energy and sustainability are part of the conversation, especially for all minority students.” Dean Farrington also adds that “the ABBE Energy Challenge has been one of the best examples of a Tandon student collaboration with the Washington Square Community, and specifically the NYU Office of Sustainability who provided the financial prize for the first challenge.

After attending an AABE-NYU meeting his freshman year, Dawkins began to recognize the importance of energy to daily life, as well as the beneficial and harmful impacts of energy practices and industrialization upon the environment and communities. During his tenure as president of the chapter, Dawkins took courses on energy and climate change to understand how to generate innovative energy solutions. Dawkins cited William Kamkwamba, who Dean Farrington brought to speak to incoming Freshmen, as an inspiration for his ability to create clean wind energy in his small Malawian village with reclaimed parts and concepts he learned in a library physics book. This simple and sustainable process towards bringing electricity to those without it is one that Dawkins and AABE-NYU are hoping their student members and Energy Challenge competitors consider. 

Both Dawkins and Suggs echoed each other in their emphasis on the importance of energy and education in energy. “Energy is the future, and we must recognize and grasp all the opportunities available to make our world a better place,” Dawkins said. Suggs hopes that the education outreach of organizations like AABE-NYMAC and AABE-NYU will provide “young people from underrepresented communities and young women with exposure to the industry, and who will then move the industry forward.”

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018