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Alumni who inspire: Kevin DiGregorio

Kevin DiGregorio at a podium.

This month's conversation for our alumni series is with Kevin DiGregorio, executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs in the chemical industry and related sectors across West Virginia (WVU Photo/J. Paige Nesbit).

The Alumni Who Inspire! Program in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources recognizes alumni for their dedication to their professions, our college and West Virginia University. The program was launched in Fall 2023 as a monthly discussion board with alumni of the College.

Q&A conversation with Kevin DiGregorio 


“We believe our alumni stories of resilience, perseverance, and determination inspire others to overcome their own challenges and pursue their goals with drive, tenacity and courage” said Cerasela Zoica Dinu, associate dean for student, faculty and staff engagement and coordinator of the program.

For the month of April we're excited to feature Kevin DiGregorio, executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs in the chemical industry and related sectors across West Virginia. Kevin is a Mountaineer with a BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering from West Virginia University and previous experience with Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemical Company. He also serves as a Director for the WV Regional Technology Park, Chair of the Board for TechConnectWV, and is on several advisory boards, including the chemistry department, chemical engineering department, and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at WV State University and the Process Technology Program at BridgeValley Community and Technical College.

Q: Kevin, you're from West Virginia. Was WVU always your top choice?    

I grew up in Richwood, West Virginia and was blessed not only by my parents and the people in my hometown, but by unbelievably great teachers, starting in elementary school and going through my years at Richwood High School. During my senior year, I somehow came to the conclusion that I wanted to combine my curiosity with my desire to learn and pursue engineering. I’m not the “mechanical” type — you would never find me leaving the basketball courts and ballfields in those days to work on cars — or the type to tinker with matchstick bridges or electronics, so I concluded chemical engineering or what was then a newfangled bioengineering field would best combine math with chemistry or biology while also sounding like the most fun and interesting. 

After considering a lot of schools — including Notre Dame (I was raised Catholic) and Boston University (had a bioengineering program) — I decided staying in my home state, getting a high-quality education for a reasonable cost, and being among friends from Richwood was the best way to go, and I chose chemical engineering at WVU. 

Q: What academic interests did you pursue while at WVU/ Statler College?   

I was fortunate enough to receive the American Chemical Society scholarship from the Kanawha Valley Section, and along with that went a summer internship at Union Carbide. So three days after graduating from high school, I was living at the University of Charleston and working in an R&D lab at the Union Carbide Technology Center in South Charleston. That led to four straight summers in various R&D internships and an amazing, real-world education.

I used those experiences to inform my chemical engineering education at WVU — focusing more on relationships and leadership, communication and collaboration — but also to pay more attention to my non-engineering courses. I loved taking sociology, philosophy and especially a political science course with the legendary Dr. Robert DiClerico. Those courses and others fostered a lifetime love of reading history and other nonfiction.

In my graduate years, my lab was in the anatomy department at the school of medicine and my research was in the biomedical field — bringing me back to one of two chosen fields coming out of high school. I conducted biomedical research with Dr. Eugene Cilento for my graduate degrees and earned the Young Investigator Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society for my dissertation work. I was awarded the Corporate Fellows Technology Award at Union Carbide and spent my last several years at Dow as the change leader at the South Charleston Technology Park. I was fortunate to work with anatomists, physicists, electrical engineers, molecular biologists, medical doctors and others over the five years of graduate school, learning the importance and power of multidisciplinary approaches and ideas for solving problems. 

I also had to have a minor for my PhD, and while I chose biochemistry and thus had to (got to) take several courses for credit, I also used my time to sit in several other biochemistry courses and a few sections of microbiology and others. I would just pop into a class I’d heard about from others, tell the professor who I was and ask if it was okay to sit in, and see what was going on. 

Q: How did you find your career path once out of college?  

By looking for opportunities to go in different directions and seizing on the ones that most interested and challenged me. 

I’ve had a wide-ranging career that started in R&D labs at Union Carbide, gradually included other part-time or extra roles like recruiting, training, and local public relations, then morphed into a full-time role as a change coach of a large 60-person R&D team with five leaders during the merger between Union Carbide and Dow. After that, I became the change leader at the old Union Carbide (and by then, Dow) Technical Center in South Charleston. As the need for that role came to an end, I decided to leave Dow and start my own consulting business and that led me to the Chemical Alliance Zone.

Through all of that, I was always interested in trying and learning new things and stepping outside of my comfort zone to use and develop other skills.  For example, during my time as a change coach and change leader, I went through hours and hours of training on how to facilitate teams and meetings, how to coach leaders, how to help manage change and more. But since I was always working with scientists and engineers, I was able to keep one foot in the world of chemical engineering, technology and innovation as well.   

Q: If you were to do it all over again, what are the 3 top tips that you'd give your younger self?

  1. Find and do work that is fun. You can call this joy, contentment or happiness instead of fun, but I like fun. I will tell groups that I’m working with 'Hey, if we’re not having fun, let’s all go do something else.' After all, we spend more time at work than we do with our families and loved ones, so if we’re not having fun or finding some kind of joy, whether that means purpose or whatever…then maybe we need to rethink things. If you are a process engineer or whatever and that’s definitely all that you want to do, if that’s your fun — then congratulations. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you have skills or interests beyond that, pursue them.   

  2. Remember that 90% of all that we do comes down to communication and relationships. Whether at home, church, or work, if you can get along with others and communicate well then you’ll do great things. Of course, education and experience are still foundational.

  3. Use your family’s and your own values and priorities to make major decisions.  I almost used 'Use your gut to make major decisions.' Think about what matters most to you and your family and use that when key opportunities or challenging situations come your way. Two examples. I stayed in West Virginia for my whole career simply because my wife and I wanted to be near friends and family. That means I turned down many job opportunities, but it made the decision to do so not only easy but more than satisfying. And the second example? I’ll use a general version to protect any innocents, but I have refused to make certain decisions or side with others on a particular issue numerous times over the years because to do so would have gone against my own core values. If something doesn’t feel right or ring true in your gut, don’t do it.

The Statler College community gained many insights from DiGregorio’s leadership, commitment to service of others from his professional journey. The wisdom imparted to our faculty, staff, and students will have a lasting impact on their futures. 



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

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Phone: 304-293-4135