Dinu leads interactive lecture with Statler College alumni on thriving in a diverse workplace environment
West Virginia University alumni collaborated to discuss how they are incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their workplace; and provided career advice on how students can overcome barriers and thrive in a complex and diverse environment.
Story by Adrianne Uphold, Graduate Assistant
The panelists of Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources alumni included Line-Audrey Nkule, Sabrina Ridenour and Andrew Gillette. The panelists touched on topics including the importance of developing a trusting relationship with a mentor, prioritizing a healthy and balanced work and personal life, and the significance of diversity and inclusion in the world of engineering.
Cerasela Dinu, associate dean for student, faculty and staff engagement and professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, led the webinar, “Overcoming Barriers and Thriving in a Complex and Diverse Environment/Perspectives on Different Career Paths.” Dinu emphasized the importance of discussions like these for current Statler College students.
“I believe that such lectures allow for both learning and individual development,” Dinu said. “Mentoring through these lectures provide an avenue to find resources, to interact with successful professionals and network in an informal setting where open and honest, authentic communication is the norm. Seeing role models of successful alumni not only motivates, but it inspires students.”
Originally from Cameroon, Nkule moved to the United States in 2013 to further her academic studies. Nkule joined Caterpillar’s Mining Technical Development Program in 2018. In her role, Nkule represents the company in the Commercial Mining Technology space, supporting other Caterpillar groups, dealers and customers.
“When I moved to the U.S. I was barely a teenager – I did not know how, when or if I would be able to make a significant impact in people’s lives, but I did believe in myself,” Nkule said. “Today, I am standing in front of you to make sure that you all know that your dreams are valid.”
At Caterpillar, Nkule said her success has stemed from the company’s employee resource groups and mentorship programs. Nkule also noted that building trust with your mentor is key.
“The number one thing I would highlight about Catepillar is the presence of employee resource groups – the groups have been capital in my ability to feel integrated and welcome as part of such a diverse team that has about 100,000 globally,” Nkule said. “If I trust you enough to open up to discuss some of the challenges that I have in my career, then I’m sure I will have a great mentor relationship with that individual.”
Sabrina Ridenour, General Motors: Ridenour is a 2017 graduate of WVU with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in vocal performance. A Frostburg, Maryland, native, she is employed as a controls design engineer at General Motors and is pursuing her master’s in energy systems engineering at the University of Michigan.
At General Motors, Ridenour works on developing charging software for all electric and autonomous vehicles. She participates in company culture initiatives, including a reverse mentoring program to mentor executives and was requested to serve on her vice president’s inclusion advisory board to advance DEI within talent recruiting.
“There is not a lot of women in the automotive industry – girls aren’t typically taught how to work on cars,” Ridenour said. “At General Motors we have ample resources. We created a work night for people to come and learn more about vehicles in our garages. We have these programs built so employees can learn how to become engaged with the industry they are in.”
Ridenour has advocated for women in STEM through the Society of Women Engineersin various collegiate and professional leadership positions throughout the last eight years. Most notably, she was selected to the 2016-2017 AAUW National Student Advisory Council in Washington, D.C., and has served as a guest speaker for conferences including TechConnectWV’s 2017 “Women Technology Conference” and SWE’s 2019 conference. In 2018, SWE-Detroit presented her with their top honor, the “Key Contributor Award.”
Andrew Gillette, Disney World: Gillette is a 2008 graduate of the WVU Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and currently lives in Orlando, Florida. Gillette earned his Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Florida and holds a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute.
Gillette is a proprietor of entertainment operations at Disney World, leading a team of eight managers. He has held multiple roles in workforce management, industrial engineering and entertainment operations. Previously, he served as the executive producer of operations for Come Out with Pride Orlando.
Gillette is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and passionate about creating inclusive environments that drive belonging, equity and authenticity. Gillette said that being authentic to yourself will help you achieve your career and life goals.
“I didn’t come out until I left college,” Gillette said. “I wish I would have been more authentic to myself throughout college. I don’t think it would have changed the trajectory of my life, but I feel like I missed a lot of opportunity by not being authentic to myself.”
Gillette suggested students to look for a company with a strong sense of purpose, so all employees have an overarching goal to keep in mind.
The discussion was part of the 2021 WVU Diversity Week and sponsored by the Statler College.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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