SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group

Each month throughout the year, we'll be spotlighting a different SWE Affinity Group (AG). For the month of February, we are excited to highlight SWE's African-American Affinity Group!

Each month throughout the year, we’ll be spotlighting a different SWE Affinity Group (AG). The SWE Affinity Groups’ (AGs) mission is to bring together communities that share similar interests and backgrounds that support the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategic goals of SWE.

SWE Affinity Group goals:

  • Develop a sense of community in the Affinity Groups fostering an inclusive environment where people discuss experiences in their engineering career, online and offline.
  • Provide professional development opportunities enabling and sponsoring leadership experiences, networking and mentorship.
  • Empower members through highlighting accomplishments and supporting diversity in the SWE Leadership pipeline, Awards, and Scholarships.

SWE Affinity Groups are organized into DE&I AGs and Business Interests AGs. DE&I AGs are focused on the needs of social minority populations and support initiatives tailored to serve these communities. Business Interest AGs are loosely centered around the members’ business environment and career experiences.

For the month of February, we are excited to highlight SWE’s African-American Affinity Group, a DE&I AG.

Get to know the goals of the African-American Affinity Group!

What are the overall goals of the African-American Affinity Group?

The overall goals of the African-American Affinity Group are based on the following three pillars:

  • Build Community: Develop a sense of community in the Affinity Groups fostering an inclusive environment where people discuss experiences in their engineering career, online and offline.
  • Professional Development: Provide professional development opportunities enabling and sponsoring leadership experiences, networking and mentorship.
  • Member Empowerment: Empower members through highlighting accomplishments and supporting diversity in the SWE Leadership pipeline, Awards, and Scholarships.

Does the African-American Affinity Group have regular meetings? If so, when and how often? What takes place during a typical meeting?

The leadership team of the African-American Affinity Group has monthly meetings, and there are meetings for the extended/larger African-American Affinity Group on a quarterly basis.

During a typical meeting there is a check-in or ice breaker for the meeting attendees and then we go through the prepared agenda for the meeting. There are a wide range of topics that are covered during the meetings. For example, during a recent meeting we discussed plans regarding the leadership structure for the AG, planning for Black History Month, and checking in with each of the team’s leads.

How is the African-American Affinity Group working to reach and include new members?

The African-American Affinity Group will work to reach and include new members by hosting more meetings/events to meet more community members and provide information regarding the AG as well as SWE leadership opportunities.

Why is the African-American Affinity Group important to its members?

The African-American Affinity Group is important to its members because this group provides a community safe space for, by, and about women—especially Black women who are Engineers/STEM professionals—where members can discuss topics of interest, get access to resources, have opportunities to learn, become inspired by other members, provide a pathway to leadership opportunities in SWE and beyond, and more.

Where would you direct those interested in joining or learning more about the African-American Affinity Group?

Anyone interested in joining or learning more about the African-American Affinity Group can use any of the following resources listed below:

  • Follow this link, then click on ‘African-American’ (below ‘Diversity and Inclusion’).
  • Join the Facebook group and answer the questions when prompted.
  • Send an email to the African-American AG.

Meet the African-American Affinity Group members!

Alana M. Hill, PMP

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupAlana is native Houstonian, who attended Texas A&M University. After earning her BS in PETE, she joined Schlumberger and worked in the field in South Texas. Her career then transitioned to IT, where she served as a Product Champion and led the deployment of numerous IT and functional projects for operations. Alana has always been a passionate teacher/trainer, so she joined the talent development/HR function and found the blend of her talents and passions helped her create and execute learning strategy. In 2006, she started her consultancy focused on change management and talent development. She currently speaks, trains, and consults in those areas. Read more about Alana here.

Brittany Burnett

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupBrittany is originally from Lithonia, Georgia. She attended school at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia. Brittany has always loved learning about science and was good at math. In college, she was really interested in the building construction and design of megaprojects, and therefore chose to pursue a career in Civil Engineering. She currently works as a Project Controls Engineer at Bechtel at UPF in Oak Ridge, TN.

Brittany loves watching sports, playing volleyball, and competing in pageants. Read more about Brittany here.

Charity Asuquo Ikpe

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupCharity was born in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria and migrated with her parents and two siblings to Washington, DC at the age of six.  Her parents came to further their education as Masters students. Charity has both a BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland College Park. She worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) as a Satellite Systems Engineer where she supported the Space Shuttle Discovery launch on the historic Return to Flight mission, STS-114. She then worked for five years as a thermal structural engineer on James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

After 10 years at GSFC, Charity moved to Chicago and decided to take a 6-year career break to raise her two children.  As a stay-at-home mom, she got involved in her children’s school PTA and later become a part-time technology teacher.  There she learned that most of the young girls were not really interested in STEM, which moved her to start Engineers In Heels organization in 2017. She re-entered her career two years ago as an F/A-18 Structures Engineer at The Boeing Company in St. Louis, through Boeing’s first time program, “Return Flight”—a program designed for engineers who took a career break and seek to return. She is currently on the Boeing enterprise Racial Equity Task Force, helping to shape the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and was recently promoted to a Project Manager role. Read more about Charity here.

Eric’el Johnson

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupEric’el attended the University of Missouri – St. Louis where she earned a BS in Electrical Engineering. She then received an MS in Electrical Engineering from Missouri S&T. She has worked as an electrical engineer for about five years at Boeing, interned three times with Boeing, had an Emerson Electric co-op, and served as a research assistant in the department of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Eric’el currently resides in Alton, Illinois and enjoys DIY projects, spending time with family and friends, binge-watching shows, and trying new things. Read more about Eric’el here.

Monica Brown Challenger

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity group

Monica lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and works as an Electrical Design and Analysis Engineer at The Boeing Company in St. Louis, Missouri. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Massachusetts-Lowell and a Technical Leadership Certificate from the James McKelvey School of Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. After a 15-year break, she resumed her engineering career as an Engineer Design and Analysis Engineer in 2019 through Boeing’s return to work program. Monica’s previous roles include: STEM Consultant for the Arthur A. Collins Legacy Association; Director for STEM Programming for the Eastern Iowa for Multicultural Educational Programs, Inc.; Executive Director at the Iowa Innovation Learning Center (previously known as the Cedar Rapids Science Center); Semiconductor Application Engineer at Rockwell Collins, and Logistics Planning Manager at Anheuser-Busch Companies’ Wholesaler Computer Systems Division.

Monica is an avid music lover – from Chaka Khan to Chopin from Broadway musicals to blues. She also enjoys crocheting. Read more about Monica here.

Morgan Arline

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupMorgan graduated from Tuskegee University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, she was accepted into the Boeing Engineering Career Foundation Program, a two-year engineering rotation program for high-performing leaders in Puget Sound. Once she completed the program, she relocated to Boeing Oklahoma City as an Electromagnetic Effects engineer. This past October, she was promoted to the Vice President of Aircraft Modernization and Modification (AMM) Executive Assistant.

Morgan’s hobbies include volunteering with local organizations, reading, and traveling. She is at peace when she is around her family or good friends. Read more about Morgan here.

Nikia Brown

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupNikia received a BS in Industrial Engineering degree in 2011 from Michigan State University with a concentration in Supply Chain Management. She also has her Green Belt & Black Belt Six Sigma certifications and is a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). In 2012, she began working full-time in the Supply Chain Rotational Program and rotating through various locations including Michigan, Texas, and Louisiana.

In her free time, she likes to check-off various events, restaurants, activities, museums, etc., from a Houston “Adventure List” she created once she moved to Texas. Read more about Nikia here.

Shanequah Brison

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupShanequah currently works as a B-1 Defensive Systems Engineer for The Boeing Company, though has also served as an Information Technology Engineer, Information Analyst, and Data Analyst Fraud Monitor.

She obtained a BS in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics  from Langston University and a MS in  Information Systems Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management. She lives in Oklahoma City, OK and enjoys listening to music, shopping, watching Netflix and traveling. Read more about Shanequah here.

Sherrie Rippe

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupSherrie grew up in Alabama and now lives in Seattle, Washington. She attended college at Washington University in St. Louis with Civil Engineering as her major, and took most of her electives in European History, but also took classes in Business. Upon graduating with her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering, she went to work for the Boeing Company as a Structural Analysis Engineer. Twelve years later, she is still at Boeing, where she is a Lead Stress Engineer on the Production Engineering team. She gets to use her Civil Engineering degree to analyze the tooling that is used to build commercial aircraft.

When she’s not working, Sherrie loves to experiment with new recipes, read, travel, and sew. Read more about Sherrie here.

Trenisha Tait

SWE Community Spotlight: African-American Affinity Group African-American affinity groupTrenisha is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. She has lived in Oklahoma for over eight years with her husband and two furry kids. Her undergraduate degree, a BS in Mechanical Engineering, was earned at the University of Missouri. At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, she earned a MS in Aeronautics with specializations in Aviation Aerospace Management and Unmanned Aerial Systems. Trenisha started her professional career at Sikorsky Aircraft as a Flight Test Engineer working on Blackhawk helicopters. After a while, she received an opportunity to work with Pratt and Whitney and has been working with the company since. Through Pratt and Whitney she has worked in several organizations gaining experience in operational manufacturing, customer support engineering, project engineering, and logistics engineering.

Trenisha enjoys traveling, volunteering, hiking, painting, reading and playing video games and is involved in several professional engineering organizations and employee engagement teams. She is a huge Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Marvel/DC geek.


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