Monday, October 2, 2023
Article by Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Brandon Downey speaking with the Olivia Rose, and Amirah Mitchell during the All Voices as One: Together we can innovate and shape the future student-led conference. (WVU Photo/Isis Moore)
The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University hosted students, faculty, staff and alumni on Sept. 21, to foster purposeful exchanges of personal experiences, values, beliefs and perspectives. The event was a celebration of individuality and a reflection of the united spirit within the Statler College community.
BENJAMIN M. STATLER COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND MINERAL RESOURCES
The gathering was part of the “All Voices as ONE: Together We Can Innovate and Shape the Future” conference organized by a students’ committee formed from both graduate and undergraduate students, Office of the Dean and the Associate Dean for Student, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Cerasela Zoica Dinu.
Beginning with opening remarks from Pedro Mago, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College and Paul Kreider, WVU Vice Provost, the conference aimed to cultivate a sense of belonging for all to build and position our Statler community for success.
The keynote lecture “Engineering success story: Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer” was delivered by Brandon Downey, a WVU alumnus, and the President and CEO of Trilogy Innovations Inc. — a small systems and software engineering firm in North Central West Virginia recently named the state’s #1 business, ranked 590th by Inc. 5000 and designated as the fastest growing company in West Virginia according to Inc. Magazine.
Downey, a 2000 bachelor’s in computer science and electrical engineering and a 2002 master’s in computer science and electrical engineering graduate from the Statler College, led the audience on his journey to self-discovery and success. He shared his experience of being born, raised and educated in WV and stressed the importance of the lessons learned during his upbringing. The meaning of family and commitments enabled him to connect people from diverse backgrounds and empower them to be better leaders and human beings.
“When I first came to WVU, I encountered a broader range of perspectives and experiences, which expanded my worldview and enhanced my personal growth,” said Downey. “I found pockets of individuals of all races and interests who challenged me to find myself. When I joined the business world, my eyes were opened to disparity, both economic and racial. I know now that education, research, participation in dialogue, and actively listening to understand different viewpoints and experiences better can connect people from diverse backgrounds to build a broader perspective and a strong community. I have encouraged students of minority groups to find their voices because that is a critical first step in changing the landscape.”
This message resonated with the West Virginia University strategic vision. Kreider noted that “Building an engaged, inclusive community is an essential goal for our institution's success and growth. We must actively involve all our stakeholders to create the community we are proud to be a part of.”
In his role as President and CEO of Trilogy Innovations, Downey continues making an impact in WV economic diversity, mentoring of young professionals, encouraging entrepreneurship and STEM concepts integration in K-12 students, and giving back to his alma mater.
"It was uplifting to be part of the organizing committee and learn from Mr. Brandon Downey about his living experience of being a minority in West Virginia,” said Joshua Caswell, a senior mechanical and aerospace engineering student and organizing committee member. “The support that comes from our loved ones was especially relatable, and I thought it was an effective example of how sharing perspectives brings people closer together.”
Following the keynote lecture, the event provided a unique platform for students to connect with accomplished alumni from different private and federal sectors in a speed networking event. Participating alumni included:
Brandon Downey, CEO of Trilogy Innovations Inc.
Brian Anderson, Executive Director of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization and Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary for Infrastructure
Sharon Flanery, Chair, Energy and Natural Resources Department at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, Statler College Visiting Committee Member
Dave Hawkins, President at Mid-Atlantic Surgical Systems
Yemi Akinkugbe, Former Chief Excellence Officer at CNX Resources Corporation, Statler College Visiting Committee Member
Kief Hess, Retired Center of Excellence Leader, Chemtura Corporation
Kevin Fields, VP of Manufacturing Services, Hino Motors Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc.
Ross Schlobohm, former Senior Associate and Hampton Roads Office Manager and Lieutenant Civil Engineer Corps
“As a member of the organizing committee and a dedicated participant, I had the privilege of sharing my research with successful alumni, experts in different economic sectors,” said Vaishakhi Suresh, a graduate student in the industrial and management systems department and speed networking session participant. “In return, they shared their expertise, helped me build professional connections, and even explored innovative entrepreneurship ideas with me.”
The event concluded with the diversity showcase poster session spanning categories of research, teaching, service and outreach activities in Statler College. Organizations and student groups entered 31 posters to the competition which was judged by the panel of alumni.
The winning posters included “Decarbonization of Chemical Industry Through Microwave Catalysis” by Alazar Araia and “Diversity in Research Towards a Common Goal: An instance of the Innovation-Driven Sustainable Systems Research Group” by Ayooluwa Akintola both from the chemical and biomedical engineering department. With the third winning submission going to the “Artificial Intelligence Club” by Rohit Chivukula and Jacob Thrasher both from the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
“The opportunity to connect with fellow graduate and undergraduate students, engaging in discussions and exchanging ideas with my peers provided a firsthand look at the diverse spectrum of research, teaching and service being conducted at WVU, keeping us all informed and inspired,” said Suresh.
“Our second conference has been a wonderful experience, and it really feels like we're leaving an impact by facilitating the celebration and discussion of who we are,” continued Caswell.
This intentional opportunity to engage our stakeholders, namely students, faculty, staff, and alumni in the Statler College community, is an essential step towards integration and engagement for all individuals.
“We need to establish ways that allow stakeholders to provide their input and suggestions – ways that intentionally seek feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni, and use it as a basis for improvement,” concluded Kreider. “This not only demonstrates a commitment to their satisfaction but also leads to positive changes.”
Link to full article published by the West Virginia University Statler College Media Hub: