Inspiring Diversity and Evolving an Innovation Nation at the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum

February 08, 2017

by Mrs. Lisa Wu, Lab Director of Oceanography and Geophysical Sciences, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

What do a Hip Hop Artist, a NBA player, a University President, and a Congressman have in common? STEM of course! Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics–STEM is the fuel that drives U.S. competitiveness by inspiring innovation and fostering creativity. It also holds the key to our country’s future economic prosperity.

On December 1, 2016, I and two of my students from Thomas Jefferson Science and Technology High School in Virginia ( ) entered the posh City Club of Washington, D.C., only three blocks from the White House. City Club is a place where prominent Washingtonians converse on legal and business issues quietly in dark paneled dining areas. Walking through the quiet hallways of this fine private, business and social club, one room sparkled with luminaries. It was the Minorities in Energy Year III Anniversary Forum. The focus of this daylong forum was to expand engagement of diverse Americans in the areas of energy, economic environment, climate change, and STEM education. Department of Energy leaders, Minorities in Energy (MIE) Ambassadors, and public-private partners were invited to share experiences, discuss success of exemplar initiatives, and welcome in a new group of MIE Ambassadors

In the photo below recently inducted MIE Ambassadors gathering with existing members and Champions from government and the private public sector all committed to supporting women and minorities in an effort to create a more diverse and innovative Energy workforce.

Annual Forum Celebrates Minorities in Energy Ambassadors and Champions:
Top row from Left- Roger Rocha, Jr, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC; Dr. J’Tia Hart, Research Analyst, National Nuclear Security Administration; Melonie D. Parker, VP Human Resources Sandia National Laboratories; Randa Fahmy, Founder Fahmy International; Dr. David Wilson, President Morgan State University; Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, Founder-President Lowenstein & Associates, Inc; Jerome Ringo, Founder & Chairman of Zoetic Global Leadership accepting the award on behalf of David West, NBA Player & Zoetic Global Advisory Board Member; Bottom Row from Right- (Head Hidden) Albert Williams, VP San Joaquin Valley Business Unit for Chevron; From Right: Jenny Hou, Co Founder of Asian Americans in Energy; Bei Leong Hong, President –CEO Knowledge Advantage, Inc.; Michelle Holiday, President Michelle Holiday & Associates; Dr. Dot Harris, (Former) Director of Office of Economic Impact & Diversity, Dr. Ernest Moniz, (Former) U.S. Secretary of Energy; Dr. Kristina Johnson, Founder- CEO Cube Hydro Partners; Robert Gee, President Gee Strategies Group, LLC & coo founder of Asians in Energy; Dr. Njema Frazier, Physicist in Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration; Tony Baylis, Director Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

It was one of these newly inducted MIE Ambassadors- Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, who extended the invitation to two of my students to serve as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology STEM Ambassadors and Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalists. Check out her ‘Words of Wisdom’ video.

Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein: A lifetime championing equity, Technologies as a tool for Transformation, and Partnerships as a strategy for Transformation; A Pioneer of Opening STEM Education Pipeline as a National Imperative


In the shadow of our Nation’s Capital, Thomas Jefferson High School is a STEM-focused Governor’s school that might be considered a natural to invite to the STEM civic activity. These two young females have worked hard for the past four years accruing more than twenty Advanced Placement STEM classes between them, including Micro and Macroeconomics, Statistics, Computer Science, and Calculus as well as science and technology electives such as DNA Science, Advanced Marine Biology, and Prototyping. But often, important lessons are learned outside of school.

On this day out- of- school, the students were exposed to Fireside Chats, Panel Discussions and Special Remarks from influential leaders such as Dr. Ernest Moniz, (Former) Secretary of Energy, The Honorable Dot Harris, (Former) Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, Dr. Kristina Johnson, Founder & CEO of Cube Hydro Partners, and Mr. David Steward, a 2015 MIE Ambassador who is the Billionaire Chairman and Founder of World Wide Technology, Inc.

Special Remarks from Dr. Ernest Moniz, A Nuclear Physicist who served as U.S. Secretary of Energy from 2013 until January 20, 2017. He argued for engaging more women and minority communities in the Energy Ecosystem as a business, diversity and moral imperative.
Opening Remarks: Dr. Dot Harris, Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at DOE. A strong voice for diversity in the Energy Sector.

Motivational Remarks from Dr. Kristina Johnson, an Engineer, Academic, Entrepreneur, Co Founder –CEO of Cube Hydro Partners, former Under Secretary of Energy. “The Grand Challenges facing society require solutions from diverse and inclusive engineering teams that possess the requisite knowledge, innovation, and creativity to invent the Future.” See video

Fireside chat: Dr. Dot Harris and David Steward, Chairman and Founder World Wide Technology, Inc. one of the largest African American owned companies in America, worth over $9.4 billion, and Entrepreneurial Author of Doing Business in the Good Book.
“Only by engaging diverse talents and cultivating creativity can we achieve a competitive edge and ensure we have the next generation of Innovation... As in jazz, improvisation is a big part of Innovation... Be guided by Faith and recall scripture Luke 6:45 -- ‘From the abundance of the heart, let the mouth speak.’"


Throughout the day, in between the formal panel presentations, students had unique opportunities to network as Global NetGeneration of Youth STEM Ambassadors and Cyberjournalists and dialogue with the esteemed attendees about the present and future opportunities for participating in the Energy Ecosystem. Practicing their communication skills, the students were able to conduct some probing interviews and photograph this diverse group of individuals who champion energy, our Planet, and clearly value expanding the diversity and capacity of our STEM workforce pipeline.

As an educator and researcher, I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Energy for affording students from elementary school through college, not only options for inquiry-based learning activities in school but, opportunities such as field experiences, summer programs, and internships that enable them to work directly with STEM professionals. Such opportunities encourage students to apply knowledge from their core classes to authentic projects and or to practice the engineering design process. Most importantly, the US Department of Energy STEM Education initiatives help our emerging scientists and engineers learn to innovate and take risks on research ideas not yet tested.

As 2015 MIE Champion and Entrepreneur David Steward noted in his Fireside Chat with Director Dot Harris: “the process of innovation needs to evolve throughout our culture. “ We will achieve an ‘Innovation Nation’ when we foster a diverse STEM workforce that possesses subject matter and technical expertise, as well as, develop in our youth and adult workers the confidence, perseverance, and passion so evident and eloquently presented at this Forum.

SEE article authored by the Global NetGeneration of Youth Team from Virginia STEM Magnet School, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology:
"The Present and Future Enriched by a Diverse Energy Workforce: Reflections of the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum", by Ria Sonawane and Sarah Crossen, Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalists from Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology, in Virginia

See three articles authored by the Global NetGeneration of Youth Team from HUD’s STEM Innovation Network in Hampton:
1. "A STEM-fluential Celebration of the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum: A Parent's Perspective", by Ms. Mary McBride, Parent Liaison to HUD STEM Innovation Network and to Global NetGeneration of Youth
2. "A STEM-fluential Celebration of the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum: A Youth Perspective", by Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist Tenderly Diaz
3. "A STEM-fluential Celebration of the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum: Personal Confessions", by Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist Taylore Livingston