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Black History Month: Recognizing SWE’s Volunteer Leaders in the Senate

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, we would like to recognize all our Black members, leaders, and officers who work tirelessly to advance the SWE mission.
Black History Month

The SWE Mission reads as follows:

Empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders; expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion.

We are highlighting here a few of our exemplary leaders who help drive our mission forward, with gratitude and admiration for all they do!

Linda M. S. Thomas, F. SWE, Senator

Linda Thomas

Linda Thomas (She/Her/Hers), a SWE senator, and SWE Member at Large, described in six words: mom, wife, engineer, musician, photographer, STEMinist. Linda retired from the Boeing Company in January 2020, a Technical Fellow and chemical regulatory risk assessment subject matter expert. Since retirement, Linda continues STEM advocacy through online volunteer work with SWE, NSBE, International System Safety Society, and local community activities.

Linda, a native of Washington, DC, received a BS in chemical engineering from Howard University and a MS in systems engineering and architecture from University of Southern California. Linda’s hobbies include playing clarinet, photography, and gardening. She lives in the Seattle, Washington area with her husband Lee, and pet bird. She is also the mother of a 2020 college graduate!

Linda’s career accomplishments were recognized by SWE as a Fellow, 2016 Woman Engineer You Should Know, and the Distinguished Service Award. She was also featured in the Boeing 2014 Environment Report and their 2017 International Women’s Day campaign, #WomenMakeUsBetter.

Linda is currently serving a second term as Senator. Her personal goal for the Senate is connecting with SWE membership, to ensure their voices are heard by the Society.

Valerie Thomas, Senator

Valerie ThomasFor the past 6 years, Valerie Thomas (She/Her/Hers) has served as both a leader in SWE and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). In NSBE, she currently serves as the Women in Science and Engineering – Special Interest Group (WISE SIG) Director. In SWE, Valerie has served as co-chair and chair of the membership committee; advisor to the University of Georgia chapter and liaison for the NSBE-SWE joint membership initiative. She is also a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.

Valerie received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia. Professionally, she is a Marketing Communications manager with Siemens Digital Industries (DI) division. Valerie currently resides in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Valerie is passionate about women empowerment and says, “My drive is to ensure that women in STEM have a platform to be heard.” As a SWE Senator, Valerie strives to make a difference, and be an effective leader assisting the organization with sustaining the present and preparing for the future. Valerie believes that as SWE continues to evolve, it’s important that our goals, vision, and objectives are aligned with what’s going on in the world around us.

As a woman of color, Valerie wants to see more faces like hers serving in SWE leadership. Also, she hopes to see more membership levels engaging in leadership roles. Whether you’re collegiate, international, seasoned, or early career; the more diverse a board is, the greater probability that every demographic within SWE is heard.

Louvere Walker-Hannon, Senator

Louvere Walker-HannonLouvere Walker-Hannon (She/Her/Hers) is a MathWorks Application Engineering Senior Team Lead, who provides technical guidance and strategic direction to a team of Application Engineers. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and a master’s degree in Geographic Information Technology with a specialization in Remote Sensing. Louvere has presented and continues to present at several STEM related conferences on various topics and is an active STEM advocate. She is also a recent recipient of the SWE WE Local 2022 Engaged Advocate Award which honors individuals who contributed to the advancement or acceptance of women in engineering. Louvere is a Co-Lead of the SWE African-American Affinity Group and the Professional Development Lead of the SWE Latinos Affinity Group for FY22. She is currently serving as a first year SWE Senator. In her spare time, Louvere enjoys volunteering, advocating for STEM Youth outreach for underrepresented groups in STEM, and helping as many people as possible via her work and volunteerism.

Cherie Cain, Speaker of the Senate

Black History Month: Recognizing SWE’s Volunteer Leaders in the Senate -

Cherie Cain (She/Her/Hers) has been a SWE member since 2006 when she joined the Boston section. A member of the Hartford section since 2013, she has held various roles, from co-chairing Boston’s first “Wow/ That’s Engineering” event to Senator and now Senate Secretary. Cherie is a staff systems engineer for Collins Aerospace Systems. She has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing, design, and systems engineering. Cherie earned her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, her hometown. She also earned an MS in Systems Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She is married with one child.


Jola Ilori, Senator

Black History Month: Recognizing SWE’s Volunteer Leaders in the Senate -

Jola IIori (She/Her/Hers) is a SWE Member At Large member. In her words: I graduated in 2017 with a double bachelor’s major in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Ottawa, Canada. As a student, I served as one of the Vice Presidents for Women in Science and Engineering, where I worked closely with our local Women in STEM Careers group to host informal speaker nights for students. I was responsible for communicating and engaging with the students to ensure that the events encouraged and built a sense of community for them, thus, making them feel more welcome and less lonely in STEM programs. I also volunteered for the World University Society of Canada Student Refugee Program. I was responsible for ensuring that sponsored female students adapted and were able to study like local students at the university. I worked closely with the sponsored students to host social events with the program community and have them attend other local university social events to help with cultural integration. As an early career professional, I currently volunteer at my local elementary/junior high schools for IAGTED (Introduce a Girl to Science and Engineering Day).

As a woman of color, I am very passionate about empowering women and improving the representation of women of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the STEM field. I will continue to dedicate time and effort to mentoring and building a sense of community for women in STEM to feel less alone and grow together. Minority representation in STEM careers, especially Black & Hispanic representation, has recently been quietly declining. My goal in SWE Senate is to explore Youth programming opportunities that foster interest in STEM careers to help reduce this decline. I also want to look at having more remote programs and events that include all SWE members, especially SWE members at large, and encourage networking/connections across SWE member sections. I am interested in ensuring that SWE is an inclusive organization with diverse leaders representing the demographic of SWE members. I am also keen on supporting and empowering SWE members to build successful careers.

Monica Brown Challenger, Senator

Black History Month: Recognizing SWE’s Volunteer Leaders in the Senate -

Monica Challenger (she/her/hers) is a member of the East Central Iowa SWE section. She joined the Boeing Company in 2019 after a 15-year break from her engineering career. During her career break, Challenger rooted herself in her community as a volunteer, an executive director, and a member of several boards. She curated strong, trusted relationships with community members, leaders, and nonprofits, focusing on building literacy and STEM-based educational and career opportunities. Challenger is an Electrical Design and Analysis Engineer on Boeing’s F-15 Electrical Design Team. Challenger holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and a Technical Leadership Certificate from the James McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University St. Louis. Challenger is the Vice President of the Cedar Rapids Public Library Board of Trustees; a board member of the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation; an executive board member of Iowa’s Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, and a board member of The Revival Theatre Company. Challenger and her husband have four children. Their two oldest children are college graduates from Saint Louis University and Harvard College. Their two youngest are in their first year at Morehouse College and Spelman College this fall.


African American Affinity Group


  • Stephanie Foege

    Stephanie Foege has been a SWE member since 2002. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana and currently works as an operations manager for Healthy Horizons. Stephanie lives with her husband and (6) amazing daughters in SE Wisconsin. The inspiration for this post came from her oldest, who won her school district's Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest in 2023.

  • Honna George

    Honna George is the Deputy Executive Director at SWE. In addition to supporting the strategic planning, staff development, public policy, marketing, event registration, and DEI&B work at SWE, Honna works at the primary data architect and information systems designer at the organization. She specializes in information technology and data management and oversees organizational data, data governance, and database applications and integrations.