Electrical engineering graduate awarded Women of Color STEM achievement award – Ohio University

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“Other people — especially people you might have something in common with — need to see what they can strive for,” said Seana McNeal, BSEE ‘06.
McNeal was awarded the Professional Achievement in Government award at the Women of Color STEM conference on Oct. 8, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. This award acknowledged McNeal’s commitment to public service as a deputy program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory. 
McNeal did not always know that she would build a rewarding career in the Air Force, but she did know that she wanted to work in a hands-on environment. When she was in high school, McNeal was enrolled in a program at Wright State University that introduced her to the different types of engineering. From there, teachers at Dayton Public Schools, McNeal’s alma mater, would help students choose which courses best fit their intended career goals. 
“I enjoyed electrical engineering. I liked designing circuits and I wanted something tangible and hands-on,” said McNeal. 
One teacher, Pete Weimer, served as a mentor for McNeal in high school and beyond. Weimer was McNeal’s chemistry and physics teacher. Throughout high school, Weimer encouraged McNeal to challenge herself and when she began her college journey, he remembered her then, too. 
“He had a brother who worked at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. [During my] break of 2004, I went to visit [Mr. Weimer] and he asked if I wanted to shadow his brother. Little did I know, his brother was looking to bring me on as a co-op student. Next thing I knew, I was co-oping during spring and summer quarters in 2005,” said McNeal.
The beginnings of McNeal’s career almost felt serendipitous. As a student at Ohio University, she knew she was right at home as a student in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, but the trajectory of her career was unknown before she co-oped. 
Through a series of positions with the Air Force, McNeal has climbed the ladder since her first co-op at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Today, she works as a deputy program manager overseeing the project that aims to stand up the first ever Department of the Air Force sponsored university-affiliated research center. While this project is supposed to last five years, McNeal works diligently every day to develop the vision for this project. 
“We are identifying historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with an R2 Carnegie Research classification to support them in earning R1 designation. From there, we want to ensure our partner university is doing research that [the Air Force] needs,” said McNeal. 
While McNeal’s day-to-day activities are not technically electrical engineering, she would not have gotten to her position without her engineering background. She started her career in a research lab and slowly shifted to project management. Her background in engineering helped her get her foot in the door and it was critical as she shifted into leadership roles in a technical environment. 
“Having a technical background gives me the opportunity to understand and ask the right questions in my project management roles,” said McNeal. In addition to her technical background, her willingness to gain understanding was also a skill she developed in the Russ College.
“No one person knows everything. We need to talk and be vulnerable, and I didn’t learn that right away. Engineering is a job where you have to work with others, if you are working on a system especially. For example, if we are working on aircraft, there is no one person who can design and build an aircraft inside and out,” said McNeal.
When the time came for nominations for the Women of Color STEM awards, McNeal’s supervisor was quick to gather a nomination packet for McNeal. It was clear that her leadership in the field deserved to be recognized as she continues to prosper. 
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