University of Tennessee student Julius Gunn, a senior in engineering, will be recognized as the Black Engineer of the Year-Student Leader at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference in February after the Rolls-Royce Corp. nominated him for the award.
Gunn is the first UT student to be nominated and to win the award in the university’s history, according to James Pippin, director of diversity programs for the College of Engineering.
Gunn was selected among students nominated by 380 engineering schools across the country, Pippin said.
He will receive the award at a ceremony to be held Feb. 17 in Baltimore, Md. The ceremony will not only honor students like Gunn, but will also present awards to top professional engineers.
“The event is the Academy Awards for black engineers,” Gunn said, adding that most Fortune 500 companies will have representatives in attendance.
While the Rolls-Royce name is mostly associated with luxury automobiles, the corporation is also a major jet engine manufacturer.
Walter Odom, director of the Office of Professional Practice, said the corporation’s nomination reveals Gunn’s talents in the field of engineering.
“Since he was nominated for this award by one of the most well-known companies in the world, I think that speaks to his skills as an engineer,” Odom said.
Don Dareing, professor of mechanical engineering, agreed that Gunn has exceptional engineering capabilities.
“(He is) excellent in every category,” Dareing said.
Gunn has worked for the corporation through a co-op program for the past three years. The program was established through the Office of Professional Practice, where he was accepted into the Diversity Engineering Scholarship Program.
For the co-op, Gunn alternated semesters studying at UT and working for the company at their headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. He has completed five co-op sessions with the company. Throughout the length of his co-op, Gunn moved from working with propeller blades to testing vertical lift-off jet engines.
Rolls-Royce members were greatly impressed with his commitment to engineering and his community.
“Julius has been set apart from others by his strong interest and dedication to being an engineer,” Tiffany Brown said, program manager for Engineering Employee Development. “He demonstrates this dedication not only by performing well in his assignments, but also by reaching back and teaching others.”
Gunn’s ability to teach others was a main factor that led to his nomination.
Brown said Gunn has volunteered at inner-city high schools to promote engineering as a career and to teach students about the qualities necessary to succeed.
“As a result of his efforts, he was an easy choice to send his name forward as our nominee,” Brown said.
Through his involvement with inner-city schools, Gunn seeks to show black students that a career in engineering is possible, if they work hard.
“All they need is some guidance, instead of someone telling them they can’t do it,” Gunn said of the students to whom he speaks.
Engineering has traditionally been a field where minorities have been underrepresented, but according to Pippin, while it’s still struggling, minority representation is improving.
At UT, there are 157 full- and part-time black engineering students. Since 1978, UT has graduated from 800 to 850 black engineering students, Pippin said.
“We have done exceptionally well at UT,” Pippin said of the university’s efforts to bring diversity to the engineering field.
The lack of minority role models in engineering is a motivation for Gunn. He hopes that through his interaction with students, they will become more motivated to pursue a future in engineering.
“Just seeing the minority faces will be inspiring,” Gunn said of his presence in the classrooms. “This is just the beginning.”
Gunn knows the power a role model has on younger students and realizes his role in the community. He said he hopes he can be an inspiration to others.
“I just try to be a positive advocate for change,” Gunn said.