Associate in Engineering Student Earns MAC Scholarship

Babacar Niass sitting in chair and smiling at camera.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, and, as part of the festivities, awarded the 2024 PCC Multicultural Activities Committee Scholarship to student Babacar Niass.

A Senegal native, Niass is seeking an Associate in Engineering degree from Pitt with plans to continue his studies at East Carolina University. He is on track to graduate this summer and says his goal is to earn a master’s in biomedical engineering so he can help improve the quality of health care in his home country.

“I would like to become a biomedical engineer in the long term,” Niass says. “I would like to be able to go back to my country to help create and set up new medical technologies.”

Niass, a self-proclaimed “optimist,” says a “desire to help others and make the world better” led him to pursue a biomedical engineering career. “(It) is a reflection of my values and my personality,” he says. “Growing up, I always wanted to be able to help others in any circumstances.”

Niass first came to the United States as a foreign exchange student, after earning a merit-based scholarship to attend high school in Iowa during the 2018-19 school year. At just 15 years old, it was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, but one that taught him a number of valuable life lessons.

“As it was my first time in the US and traveling outside my country, I was exposed to new cultures and people with different backgrounds,” he says. “All this diversity, at first, was a challenge to me, because it was new to me and I did not know how to act or interact with people.”

Over time, Niass came to the conclusion that the world is a “salad bowl when it comes to culture” and that acceptance is the “key to a peaceful and mature world.” He realized the importance of embracing people of diverse backgrounds, cultures and beliefs and learning something from everyone he encounters.

“Looking back at my exchange year, I could say that the variety of culture that I had embraced and the tolerance that I had always tried to have, made me a very open-minded person,” he said.

Shortly after returning to Senegal, the COVID-19 pandemic spread and Niass found himself volunteering at a hospital. It was an experience that made him appreciate just how much he wanted to spread good will and help bring people together.

After deciding he wanted to pursue a college degree in America, he discovered PCC and was impressed with the school’s “commitment to academic excellence, innovative teaching methods and vibrant community.” The decision to study in Winterville, he says, was “a no-brainer.”

Now 21 years old, Niass has excelled in the classroom at Pitt. He’s recorded a 3.71 GPA and proven to be a dependable, outgoing member of the Registrar’s Office, where he’s worked part-time since last spring.

“Babacar has been a valuable addition to the Registrar’s Office,” said PCC Graduation & International Student Coordinator Lajuana Carter. “He exhibits eagerness and quickly grasps new concepts. In fact, he played a key role in organizing an orientation this month for international students and has willingly volunteered to assist with PCC graduation ceremonies.”

The $1,000 Niass received through the MAC Scholarship was raised through previous MLK tributes at Pitt and will help offset the cost of his tuition, fees, books and other educational expenses. He says the award is “a blessing” that not only eases the financial burden of attending college but serves as “powerful” motivation to succeed academically.

“With this scholarship, I can fully immerse myself in my studies, participate in relevant extracurricular activities, and focus on gaining the knowledge and skills needed to make a meaningful impact in my chosen field,” he says.