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Learn About the Mission and Goals of the Diversity Committee

June 13, 2013

Learn About the Mission and Goals of the Diversity Committee

Jon Rippke, chair of the APWA-MN Diversity Committee, explains the formation of the committee, its mission, and goals. 

The APWA-MN Diversity Committee evolved into formation over a period of several years.  

In 2006, I was considering a project in St. James, Minn.  St. James has been a long term client of ours (Bolton & Menk, Inc.) and has a large percentage of Latino residents.  I thought it would be a good idea to hire a Latino intern to assist us as a field representative on a St. James construction project.  The best situation would be to hire a Latino student from the St. James area.  

After finding out that there were no local Latinos enrolled in the civil engineering program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, I also learned that there have been very few, if any, Latino students enrolled in any STEM programs at MSU-M.  

Because of this, I began to search for resources to assist Latino high school students in southern Minnesota to become more aware of opportunities in the fields of engineering.  I wanted to help them prepare, through their high school education, for entry into college programs. This led me to look into resources available through APWA.  My research, at the Minnesota chapter and at the national level, found little efforts being made in this area.  Through Minnesota State University - Mankato, I was able to help establish a Latino Engineering Academic Day (LEAD) for Latino high school students in 2009. The LEAD program has been held annually since then.

APWA-MN was supportive of this effort and has provided scholarships to encourage students to pursue a college engineering degree.  The chapter became aware of the current demographic data which showed that the growth rates of minority groups were significant relative to the growth rates of those populations traditionally considered the foundation of our engineering industry. Considering this, it appeared reasonable that we will need to tap into these growing minority populations for our future workforce.

The chapter, therefore, wanted to do more to promote outreach to minorities and underprivileged populations throughout the state.  As a result, the Diversity Committee was formed at our chapter level.

With a committee of 10 members, we established our mission: “To advance the Diversity Issue throughout the Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association, placing value on all individuals and the different perspectives of those individuals, and promoting the process for all to feel included as part of the whole.”

Our committee decided to focus on outreach to minority and underprivileged populations for the purpose of expanding their participation in the public works field.

We established three goals:

  • Short-term: Increase our APWA-MN membership with existing public works employees of minority descent.
  • Mid-term: Reach out to existing workforce and college students and inform them of the opportunities in careers with public works agencies.
  • Long-term: Focus on outreach to high school students from minority groups.

Our committee is fairly active and meets on a monthly basis. One month we meet as goal sub-groups, and the next month we meet as a full committee.

Next month, we will present more details on our short-term goal, and discuss some of the specific strategies that we are implementing in order to advance our agenda.

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