“There’s nothing in a room that an engineer hasn’t touched.”
Ramona Lowery is the commissioner for the City of Cleveland’s department of water pollution control. She is a civil engineer by trade. And she says she had never met an engineer until she went to college for engineering. She now works to mentor others and to show them that engineers can be women and people of color.
Did you have a mentor?
I’ve had several, and I still do have several mentors, which is why I also serve as a mentor to students. I know how important it has been over the course of my career. The value for me has just been a lot of guidance. I always run questions by them.
What would you have wanted to hear about the promise of STEM as a young person?
I’m a first-generation college student, and as I tell the students that participate in the National Society of Black Engineers, I didn’t know an engineer until I went to school for engineering. And so for them, I was the kid who, you sit on this side of the room, the volunteers on that side and I look at these 20 faces. They are what they see. And so look at these 20 those faces in here and these are engineers.
What advice do you have for kids who are struggling with math?
For the students, in high school in particular, stick it out. For middle school students, take those challenging courses, which will translate to high school, which then translates to college. So to me, that is really a good entry point, and we encourage them to not shy away from the challenging classes, because it just gets repetitive, which is a benefit once you’ve seen it multiple times. We just try to make as many connectors as possible. For example, I tell them a lot of times, “Okay, let’s talk about everything in this room. There’s nothing in a room that an engineer hasn’t touched.” So we just tell them the reality of it. A lot of times that helps and we tell them about the support system and getting assistance, which is helpful for people. I just tell them to reach out. I just always try to encourage them.