Nakeya Adams’s (Tandon ’23) passion for computer science goes all the way back to early childhood, when an uncle introduced her to Scratch, a visual programming language for kids. She was hooked right away, and loved working on the snap circuit kits a fifth-grade science teacher brought to class. By 12, she had enrolled in the first of many engineering workshops for girls, which in turn led to enrolling in more rigorous programming courses at a lab near her hometown of Palm Bay, Florida, not far from the Kennedy Space Center.
In high school, Nakeya was excited to join the National Society for Black Engineers, or NSBE, but found that there wasn’t an active local chapter nearby. So when it was time to apply to college, she was drawn to NYU Tandon’s dynamic community of engineers from underrepresented groups.
“What stood out to me were the different opportunities to get involved with research, and also how intentional NYU is about wanting to expand the number of women and other minority groups in STEM,” Nakeya says. Once on campus, she joined NYU’s NSBE chapter right away, and four years later, she’s president, a role that involves coordinating participation in conferences and overseeing efforts to provide academic and professional support to other Black engineering students. A course she took as a sophomore on feminist theory and STEM further strengthened her commitment to changing computer science from within. “It really shifted my views on some things,” Nakeya says, “to learn about all the gender biases in the world and how those have seeped into the tech world as well as society in general.”
Inspired by a child development course she took last semester, Nakeya says she has also been reflecting lately, as she prepares to graduate, on how important very early experiences—like her first programming attempts—can be in shaping the course of a life and a career. “I feel like if there’s one course everyone should have to take, it’s this one, because it’s so useful,” she says. “Now I’m more mindful about how [the way] I grew up impacted my adulthood to this day. I think a lot of people honestly don’t realize how important those young years are.”
Nakeya now helps other engineering students to build a strong foundation through her work as a TA for a EG1004, a Tandon general engineering survey course that exposes students to a variety of subdisciplines to help them decide what they want to study. Outside of academics, she enjoys exploring New York City through cultural festivals and cuisine—Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s open-air food market, is a favorite weekend stop, and Zutto in Tribeca is her go-to for ramen—especially when she gets to play tour guide to friends visiting from Florida.
“I didn’t realize there’s so much to do here and such a diverse group of people—and I’m not just talking about race, but about different ways of thinking and different interests,” says Nakeya, who plans to find a job in software and stay in New York for the foreseeable future. “I never got that growing up in a suburb. In the city there are so many neighborhoods and I love how you can compare and contrast the different vibes. I’ve been here for four years and there’s still so much I haven’t done, haven’t seen.”