I’m on My Way

The world is full of “firsts” still waiting to be made and, last year, Wildcat alum Shamaria Engram did just that. For close to 40 years, there had never been a Black female student in the Computer Science and Engineering doctoral program at the University of South Florida. At least, not until B-CU graduate Shamaria Engram!

Shamaria entered B-CU’s College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics as a graduate of Strawberry Crest High School. Professor Emeritus Dr. Morrision Obeng says of “Dr. Engram, “I remember Shamaria well. One of the qualities that I connect to her performance as a Computer Engineering student were her time management skills. They were excellent!” 

In a news broadcast the new doctor talked about the transition she made from being a minority at the high school level to looking like nearly everyone else as a HBCU undergraduate. Clearly, the adjustment was made and Shamaria did precisely what she entered the University to do. She excelled.

Meeting Challenges

No doubt, Dr. Engram has many stories to tell but one of them points out her strength to overcome every challenge and potential obstacles. She has talked about the early days of doctoral study saying, “You kind of have to put on this face. You want them to consider you as being just as smart as everyone else in the room.” She also recalls attending a conference where she was the only Black woman and one morning having breakfast with a group of her colleagues from other schools. A keynote speaker came over to their table and proceeded to shake everyone’s hand…except Shamaria’s hand. Dr. Engram recalls that everyone just looked at each other. “It was a weird situation,” she said.

Making History

When Dr. Engram entered USF’s Computer Science and Engineering doctoral program, being the first Black woman to graduate with the terminal degree in that field never crossed her mind. She recalls that for the first two years of her study she was the only Black woman in the program. As she got further into her work, it became clear, first to others and then to herself, that she was on the way to making history. The realization that she would become the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering at USF only added to Dr. Engram’s determination to succeed. In a local television interview, the newly minted Dr. Engram talked about how she knew that there was no stopping and that she had to complete her studies. Her response was unqualified, “I came this far, I can’t quit. I can’t be the first one and then stop.”

From B-CU to MIT

This B-CU alumni is beginning a career at a level that oftentimes takes years to reach. Her very first job after earning the Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has been hired as technical staff at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. There is no doubt that this BCU alumni will go just as far as she wants to go.