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Beyond These Towers

The Campaign for Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Nde Nkimbeng ’18: Be the person who creates change

April 19, 2022

Nde Nkimbeng majored in mechanical engineering and minored in industrial engineering at WPI. After graduation, he joined United Technologies Corporation’s Operations Leadership Program, where he gained skills in supply chain, manufacturing, and operations. He is currently a supplier development engineer for Carrier in Atlanta, where he now lives. When he’s not working, Nkimbeng invests in real estate through his company, Recherche Capital, plays basketball, volunteers, and hones his public speaking skills through Toastmasters. He is also earning his MBA from Indiana University and is looking forward to graduating in May 2022.

While a WPI student, Nkimbeng became involved with African Community Education, known as ACE, a Worcester-based non-profit organization that assists African refugee and immigrant youth and families in achieving educational and social stability through access to academic support, leadership development, cultural expression, and community outreach. ACE is working to achieve a community where African refugees and immigrant youth and families are empowered, self-sufficient, and secure. Recently, Nkimbeng raised $10,000 for ACE by taking part in the David Goggins challenge on March 4. In the David Goddins challenge, individuals run four miles every four hours for 48 hours.

Here, Nkimbeng discusses how he became involved with ACE, why it is important to him, and how his WPI education drives his community involvement.

Talk about your experience with the Black Student Union (BSU) at WPI and how you became involved with ACE.
I joined the Black Student Union at WPI pretty much from Day One. Prior to enrolling at WPI, I did an overnight tour, and my guide was the vice president of BSU. As a result, before I even set foot on campus as a student, I was excited to join the organization. Through BSU I was able to find some of my closest friends. I went to Lowell High School (Mass.), which is extremely culturally diverse. During my time there, the school was about 11 percent African American, 30 percent Asian, 35 percent Hispanic, 21 percent White, and 3 percent multi race. Compared to WPI where the total African American and Hispanic population was drastically less, the BSU allowed me to find comfort in the cultural setting. While gaining comfort within BSU I took leadership roles ranging from treasurer my first year and sophomore year and president my junior and senior years. When I became president, I founded the BSU annual fashion show where I was able to raise $500 each year to donate to ACE. It was an honor to have the ACE executive director present at the show.

I first became involved with ACE my sophomore year of college when I saw the organization at the activities fair. I resonated with its mission as I attended school in Cameroon from seventh grade to 10th grade. From personal experience I understood the struggles of the transition. If I, someone who was born in the United States and spent all my life here, struggled to acclimate when I came back to the U.S. then what of an African refugee who doesn’t speak the language and is in a completely foreign land. While at ACE, I tutored and mentored kids.

Why has it been important to you to remain involved with ACE?
I’ve always been driven by a desire to contribute to the world. I strive to make a difference in the lives of others every single day. It’s my life’s mission. I’ve learned that the best way to shift your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance is to focus on serving something that is greater than yourself. When I contribute to something greater than myself, I experience the ultimate form of happiness and fulfillment. Studies indicate that the very act of giving back to a community boosts your happiness, health, and sense of wellbeing. During my time volunteering at ACE, I have been able to see the impact the organization has had on the students educationally, socially, and financially. I have several family members who have come from Cameroon as refugees and they have explained their struggles to me. If they had organizations like ACE to help them, their transitions would have been much smoother. I live by the mantra: “If you are already living in the world, why not shape it as well? It only takes one person to create a ripple of change. Be that person.”

Is there an experience you’ve had as a volunteer that particularly stands out to you?
In 2018, ACE students took a field trip to WPI where they interacted with the BSU, National Society of Black Engineers, and the engineering ambassadors. During this time, they received a physics lesson, learned about different careers, networked, and played games. It made me extremely happy when one of the ACE students told me, “I never believed that as a refugee I could even dream of becoming an engineer. I have never seen engineers in my community where I am from. Thank you, Nde, for inspiring me. You are African like me and If you can do it, I know I can, too!” That meant so much to me because it is true that representation is important. For many of these youth, although WPI is just a couple miles away physically it is millions of miles away mentally.

What do you hope to achieve through your fundraising and volunteer work with ACE?
I hope to assist ACE in building a community where African refugees and immigrant youth feel empowered to take society and their life by the horns! ACE’s mission is to assist African refugee and immigrant youth and families in achieving educational and social stability through access to academic support, leadership development, cultural expression, and community outreach. My morals completely align with their mission, and I will help them achieve this. There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” As for me, I want happiness for a lifetime!

We have been talking a lot about the university’s current fundraising campaign, called Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for WPI. When you hear the phrase “Beyond These Towers,” what does it mean to you as it relates to the WPI community, the university, or you personally as a WPI graduate?
When I think of my journey of philanthropy the phrase “Beyond These Towers” is perfect. While at WPI, I was very much involved on and off campus. Many times, students uphold those initiatives while at the university but then the fire dies down once they graduate and are bogged down by work and life. As for me, I made sure my impact continued “Beyond These Towers.” WPI’s guiding philosophy of theory and practice has played a big factor in my life where I strive to have my actions align with my beliefs—aka ‘Putting my money where my mouth is.’ The special thing about WPI graduates is the collaborative project nature of the curriculum. With the IQP, many students get the opportunity to learn about a new community and make a forever lasting impact. This happened to me during my IQP in Namibia. Although, I am not at WPI anymore collaborating and making impacts in society through projects, I still desire that rush I get when I can put a smile on someone’s face through my works.