Botwc Firsts

She's The First Black Woman To Receive A Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering From USF

She's The First Black Woman To Receive A Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering From USF

She's a pioneer!

Dr. Shamaria Engram is the first woman to graduate from USF’s CSE doctoral program since its inception nearly 40 years ago. A Tampa Bay Florida native, Engram said she was used to being the only Black person in the room, graduating from Strawberry Crest High, a predominantly white high school. Her first experience being around mostly Black students was during her undergraduate years at Bethune Cookman University, an HBCU in Daytona Beach.

“You kind of have to put on this face because you don’t want someone to look at you differently. You want them to consider you as smart as everyone else in the room. I went to an HBCU, and at first, it was a culture shock because I went to a predominantly white high school,” Engram told WFLA. 

Upon graduation, Engram enrolled at USF, where she was once again the minority, becoming the only Black woman in the Computer Science program her first two years. Engram experienced systemic racism and microaggressions during that time, including not being acknowledged by keynote speakers during academic conferences and feeling siloed in her research studies. 

Engram credits the community she built with other minority students through organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers with helping her persevere. Three years into her doctoral studies, she learned that she would be the first Black woman to graduate from the program, giving her even more inspiration to keep going. 

“That motivated me to keep on pushing. I can’t be the first one and stop. The Ph.D. is hard, and with me being the only Black woman in this department, you don’t have a lot of people to talk to about your research that get you culturally,” Engram said.

Now, she has broken barriers, becoming the first Black woman to hold her particular degree at USF, and she hopes that more Black people, specifically Black women, follow suit. 

“I think it makes me work harder to get more people in this field that look like me because it’s definitely uncomfortable at this time,” she said.

Dr. Engram is now taking her talents to the field, landing a Technical Staff job at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Massachusetts.

Congratulations, Dr. Engram!

Photo Courtesy of WFLA