As a toddler, India Banks had a knack for stacking blocks. Around 5, she graduated from building blocks to Legos. Banks became so good at constructing Legos that she even entered a Lego competition when she got older.
“From there, she progressed to K’Nex and with no instructions that girl was building amusement park rides and had things flying around,” said her mother, Bobette Banks, director of Communications for Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. “When we would ask her how she figured it out, she would say, ‘I just look at the pictures; I don’t need words.’” It was then her parents recognized they should encourage her to consider a career in engineering.
“I originally thought I wanted to do sports medicine and physical therapy when I was in high school,” said the 22-year-old dual-degree engineering student. “STEM fields like math and science are not always encouraged to us as options, and it can often be daunting when faced with these challenging subjects. So, I’m happy my parents steered me in that direction.”
Recently in Atlanta to attend her graduation from Spelman College, the mathematics/civil engineering student just completed her first year of engineering school with Atlanta University Center Consortium partner engineering institution University of Michigan. A three-two program, the Dual Degree Engineering Program offers the best of both worlds for AUC students.
While attending Spelman, Banks said she experienced its great sisterhood. “At Spelman, I was nurtured in an intimate environment with my peers who happened to be predominately black females, like myself,” wrote Banks in her Michigan profile. “[Spelman] challenged me to find something unique about myself because I was no longer a minority.”
Settling in at Michigan has been as she puts it, “very different and a lot bigger.” When you compare a student body of approximately 2,100 women to a university of more than 10,000 engineers and an overall student body of 44,000-plus, a mental adjustment does have to take place.
“Luckily for me, I have a lot of men from Morehouse in the [Civil and Environmental Engineering] department with me,” said Banks, who also plays classical piano. “This makes the campus feel a lot smaller and more manageable.” Not only does she have Morehouse brothers, Banks has found closeness and friendship in a CEE department sisterhood, women with a common goal.
This summer, Banks is interning in at Whiting-Turner, a construction management, general contracting, design-build and integrated project delivery services company. In addition to Whiting-Turner, Banks has spent summers interning with the National Society of Black Engineers’ SEEK program, GE Transportation and IBM. It was through these internships she learned specifically she wanted to become a civil engineer. “She always had a curious mind and a determined spirit,” said her mother. “I think she will make a great engineer, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother. I’m saying it because of her work ethic, her intelligence, and her commitment to doing things until she gets it right.”
For Banks, the journey from Spelman to Michigan was made easier through the guidance and support of the Consortium. Coaching, scholarship, friendship, and a myriad of employment and internship opportunities are offered to all registered DDEP students in the AUC.
“DDEP has been great to me. Everyone in the DDEP office has always been very sweet to me and supportive,” said the Silver Spring, Maryland, native. “The financial support has made paying for school more manageable for my parents, and I can’t thank DDEP enough.”
Her father, Medaris Banks, a pharmaceutical sales representative for Merck echoed that sentiment, saying: “We cannot stop talking about how much we’ve appreciated you all taking such good care of India these past three years. Being a part of the AUC was a rewarding experience for her, and you all were an integral part of that.”