The Present & Future Enriched by a Diverse Energy Workforce: Reflections from the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum

February 08, 2017

by Ria Sonawane & Sarah Crossen, Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalists from Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology, in Virginia

Congressmen - Engineers - Scientists, - Rappers,  - NBA Stars-Entrepreneurs. Those were just a few of the Energy Champions and Ambassadors convened and honored on December 2016 Minorities in Energy Year III Forum by the United States Department of Energy. While their own backgrounds were quite diverse, the influential attendees shared a common conviction, the importance of diversifying the field of Energy, and a common passion, to serve as advocates of that diversity in the Energy Ecosystem.

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.

A beaming Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein receives the MIE Ambassador plaque from Dr. Ernest Moniz and Dr. Dot Harris.

In Speeches, Fireside Chats, Open Panels, and in intimate NGY Cyberjournalist Interviews conducted throughout the day, the attendees of the MIE III Annual Forum shared their personal beliefs about the importance of diversity, as well as some successful strategies that encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

A fiery presentation was made by a newly-appointed 2016 Honorary Ambassador, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, representative of the 18th Congressional District of Texas, centered in Houston, known as the ‘Energy Capital of the World. She described her legislative career since 1995 as one advocating for minority rights and empowering women and children. She emphasized the importance of Energy in our future, energizing the crowd with her views of the Future and her hopes that going forward the new Administration will ensure that Future by supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy initiative.

Sheila Jackson Lee (D) Texas

On and off the stage at the City Club of Washington, we were enthralled by the stories of successful Minorities in Energy Ambassadors introduced in the panel MIE Ambassador Highlights, including Dr. Kristina Johnson, Mr. Albert Williams, Ms Michelle Holiday and Mr. Robert Gee.

Dr. Kristina Johnson, (Former Under Secretary of Energy who managed a $10.5 billion Energy and Environment Portfolio, and now serves as CEO of Cube Hydro Partners, (see shared stories of her life journey and the STEM pathway she took. Dr. Johnson highlighted how her high school science fair project that made it to the national level gave her the confidence she needed to pursue a job in STEM. She now hopes to instill the same confidence in youth all over the country.

MIE Ambassador Albert Williams, currently, the VP of  Chevron San Joaquin Valley Business Unit, incorporated a visual presentation to communicate the ‘Chevron Way’ business model that addresses recruitment of women and minorities to establish a diverse workforce and establish an inclusive work environment.  He also outlined the community outreach efforts that focus on partnership development and target middle school youth to increase their interests in the STEM and Energy Industry.

Dr. Kristina Johnson emphasized the importance of Energy Innovation in our Future... and asserted “a diverse workforce will ensure we have the creators and innovators required in the 21st Century.”
Chevron’s Albert Williams delineates how Chevron is promoting Minorities and Women in STEM Education to ‘Build Bridges to the Energy Future.’

MIE Ambassador Michelle Holiday, as an enrolled member of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, President of Michelle Holiday & Associates, and a Board Member of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, provided an often unheard perspective: Advocacy for inclusion of Indian Country, (Tribal Nations and Native individuals) in STEM Education, the workforce, and Energy Sector policy, with a focus on economic energy development.

A thought leader for the energy industry for over 30 years, MIE Ambassador Robert W. Gee is President of Gee Strategies Group LLC, a consulting firm providing policy analysis, advocacy, and support services for the energy, electric utility and critical infrastructure industries based in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Gee was most impassioned discussing the stereotypes surrounding Asians in the workforce.  As President of Asian Americans in Energy, the Environment, and Commerce ( , he hopes to expand Asian inclusion in every part of the Energy Field.

Saluting MIE partnerships ensuring that Native Americans from coast-to-coast will have opportunities in America’s energy future. See more
Robert W. Gee, President of Gee Strategies Group LLC

Ray Dempsey, President of BP Foundation. For greater insight into Ray Dempsey’s mindset, See

The Luncheon Speaker was the corporate philanthropist, Ray Dempsey, who serves as President of BP Foundation, as well as a Board Member of a variety of non-profit organizations committed to empowerment of traditionally underserved communities, i.e., NACME, National Urban League, and Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (HCLI). Originally trained as an engineer, Mr. Dempsey’s global and future-focused perspectives have been honed from an over 20-year career in the Energy Industry. He perceives Energy as a national growth industry, and an international driver of economic prosperity.

In his remarks, Mr. Dempsey argued for a national commitment to a comprehensive energy policy.  He was equally passionate in spotlighting the need to recognize globalization and changing demographics in our country that make it critical to prepare a diverse community of women and minorities as Future Leaders.  His advice to youth, as well as to adults already in the workforce, was to identify your passions and purpose in life, and then align your skills and experiences to them.

Another Energy Advocate whose global perspectives have sparked a life of entrepreneurial innovation, coalition building and activism is Jerome Ringo ( As founding chairman of Zoetic Global (, Mr. Ringo deploys commercially viable hydrokinetic energy solutions across the developing world. His company champions tangible, clean technology solutions that support sustainable development.

Serving with Mr Ringo on the Zoetic Global Advisory Board is David West, NBA Player for the Golden State Warriors. As an Ambassador to Zoetic, David West is dedicated to supporting strategic outreach and brand development, particularly with youth. While David West has also been appointed a 2016 MIE Ambassador, he was unable to attend the MIE III Forum, so Mr. Jerome Ringo accepted the award on his behalf.

Center: Mr. Jerome Ringo, Founding Chairman of Zoetic Global, accepts the plaque honoring NBA player David West as a 2016 US Department of Energy MIE Ambassador To his left is Dr. Ernest Moniz and to his right is Dr. Dot Harris.
Jerome Ringo (Center) Inspires the Two Teams of Global NetGeneration of Youth STEM Ambassadors/ Cyberjournalists with his tales of Solving Global Energy Challenges with Innovative Technologies, From left :Educator Mrs. Lisa Wu from Thomas Jefferson HS in Science and Technology . NGY Cyberjournalists Tenderly Diaz from Hampton; NGY Cyberjournalist Ria Sonawane, Thomas Jefferson HS; Mr Jerome Ringo; NGY Cyberjournalist Sarah Crossen from Thomas Jefferson HS; NGY Cyberjournalist Taylore Livingston from Hampton’s HUD STEM Innovation Network.

Dr. Karl Reid urging the audience to Open the STEM Ed Pipeline early to inspire youth to aspire to STEM and Energy Careers.

Another inspiring panelist we had opportunity to interview was Dr. Karl Reid, currently the Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers ( As part of the Panel on Engaging Future STEM Professionals, Dr. Reid discussed the importance of reaching out to young and middle school aged children, particularly in minority communities, exposing them to the excitement of STEM and Energy challenges, so they will be more motivated to pursue career paths in the Energy Sector. Dr. Reid then revealed how the national organization he now leads was actually responsible 34 years ago for guiding him to pursue Engineering as his Career Path. His hope for the future is to inspire youth from traditionally underserved communities to aspire to energy careers, but more broadly, to support Opening the STEM Ed Pipeline to cultivate youth as the next innovators, and ‘problem solvers ‘ addressing real-life problems and ultimately, improving the quality of life of individuals in the United States, as well as around the world.”

Throughout the day, one word kept popping up: youth. No matter what career field, race, or background each person came from, the attendees all stressed the importance of engaging youth and exposing them to the ‘unlimited possibilities in STEM and Energy careers.’ It was thrilling to dialogue with so many Champions. We were all certainly inspired to aspire, to achieve, and pursue STEM and Energy careers to shape the Future.

From left in front row: NGY Parent Liaison from Hampton Ms Mary McBride; NGY Cyberjournalist Ria Sonawane from TJHS; Lab Director Mrs. Lisa Wu from TJHS; NGY Cyberjournalist Sarah Crossen, TJHS; NGY Cyberjournalist Tylore Livingston from Hampton; Dr. Dot Harris, (Former) Director of Office of Economic Diversity and Impact; NGY Cyberjournalist Taylor Diaz from Hampton; 2016 MIE Ambassador and Founder of NGY Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein; Hampton University VP for Research, Dr. Michelle Penn-Marshall; Mrs. Diane Shimizu, Northrop Grumman; Back row: 2016 Ambassador Derek Watkins; Virginia Womack, Executive Director National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates.

Entrepreneur Sheila Boyington has found her purpose in promoting career awareness In STEM.

One of the speakers, who has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, Dr. Sheila Boyington described how the company she co- founded with her husband, Learning Blade, targets middle school youth and introduces them to STEM technologies and career opportunities through an entertaining game-based format. In one vignette, students can select an energy-related video game ‘mission’ and actually have fun solving real-world energy challenges found in urban centers. (see

What a day! An awesome community of impressive leaders living their lives with purpose and passion so Inclusive Innovation Catalyzes America’s Future by Expanding Engagement of Diverse Americans, The Forum formally ended with a presentation of flowers and cutting of a delicious cake in honor of Dr. Dot Harris and her leadership of the Office of Economic Development and Diversity.

Center: Dr. Dot Harris receiving flowers surrounded by colleagues, (Former) Deputy Director Dr. Andre Sayles, and Deputy Director of Office of Civil Rights Ann Augustyn.
At podium, The Forum Mistress of Ceremonies, MIE Ambassador Randa Fahmy offers congratulatory remarks.

Director Harris is joined by Dr. Lezli Baskerville, the President and CEO of National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and the President of the BP Foundation, Ray Dempsey to cut the cake. She closes the event with appreciation and her hopes that the Department continues to see progress with the incoming Administration.


Final Thoughts: As high school seniors from Thomas Jefferson STEM Magnet High School in Virginia, we are at a pivotal point in our lives, exploring career paths, and comparing colleges How fortunate we were to attend the MIE Forum as Global NetGeneration of Youth STEM Ambassadors and Cyberjournalists, honor the new MIE Ambassadors like Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, listen to the presentations and hear inspiring life stories from the impressive leaders.

See article authored by Educator from Virginia’s State STEM Magnet High School:
"Inspiring Diversity and Evolving an Innovation Nation at the 2016 Minorities in Energy III Annual Forum", by Mrs. Lisa Wu, Lab Director of Oceanography and Geophysical Sciences, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

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