Mechanical engineer promotes diverse educational experiences daily


Second-year mechanical engineering major Payton Morgan had more options for his future than types of food on his plate Tuesday afternoon as he shared his hopes for his career over lunch in the dining hall.

Classes filled Morgan’s morning — calculus III, physics, and material engineering. Despite the morning’s load, Morgan said he was eagerly anticipating his afternoon job: teaching the Project Lead the Way class at Gordon Parks Academy.

“[Teaching] this class is really enlightening. It makes me want to focus more on my own education,” Morgan said. “Some of these kids definitely have more of an idea of what they want to do. Well, I know I want to become a mechanical engineer, but after that, I don’t really know. It has me thinking — after I get my degree, what do I want to do?”

Outside of his work and studies, Morgan said he finds support in peer groups through campus involvement with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Cut H8 Ambassadors.

“These organizations surround me with likeminded individuals,” Morgan said. “Walking around campus, I don’t see a whole lot of African American engineers, but in that group, I am completely surrounded in a room full of them.”

“With Cut H8, I am surrounded by people who want to make our campus better, make others feel welcomed, and enjoy their time here. It is a wonderful feeling being around those people.”

Morgan said it’s comforting to be a part of a peer group where he can learn about other cultures in a supportive environment.

“[NSBE] is a way for me to learn about different culture, because a majority of the members are African, not African American,” Morgan said. “I can see their perspective for what events are going on in our world, our country.”

“I get to learn about what their experiences have been like.”

Morgan said from past experience he feels comfortable in predominantly white communities and schooling environments, but he has a deep appreciation for diversity.

“I was never treated any differently (in the classroom),” Morgan said. “I had a pretty diverse group of friends — racially, gender-wise, or just the way they think… I surrounded myself with people who weren’t going to make any kind of judgment based on that aspect of who I am.”

Morgan said ultimately, he hopes to continue to promote diversity in his career field, bringing together aspects of his current studies and community engagement.

“My goal, dream, aspiration, is to kind of follow my mentors’ footsteps,” Morgan said. “Getting a degree in engineering but picking up a minor in say, ethnic studies, and working with diversity in the engineering work place. Making sure we have a bunch of diverse different ideas, diverse people, diverse genders.

“I have a passion for equality, and diversity is one of the biggest ways to achieve that.”