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Female leaders at EGLE highlight their careers on International Women's Day

(MI Environment is highlighting some of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s female leadership today — International Women’s Day.)

Learn more about EGLE’s female leadership from their answers to these three questions:

  1. Who did you look up to early in your career or education who made a difference in your career, and what did you learn from them?
  2. What advice do you have for early-career young professionals?
  3. What changes have you seen – for better or worse – in your field in recent years?

Elizabeth Browne, director of EGLE’s Materials Management Division

  1. First was my mom — she was a strong woman who spoke up when things were not right. In school women who were strong in science were inspirations — Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead – they did great work without worrying about it being Elizabeth Brown headshotproper.  It never occurred to me that science wasn’t for girls – it was the subject that spoke to me and continues to spark my imagination.
  2.  While you should seek work that feeds your soul, don't assume it is one specific thing. My initial degree in college was in wildlife biology — while I benefitted from the science it isn't where my career took me. Keep your eyes open for opportunities or challenges that no one else has taken on — you can end up writing your own job description (I did more than once). Don't be so afraid of failure that you never try and don't put yourself into your own silo!
  3. While the science keeps getting better the public’s understanding of how to know what is good science or where to go for good information has gotten much worse.  This often causes us to spend resources on things that are not the highest environmental/human health issues.  On the flip side, seeing the young people who are entering our work force and their desire to do good and the drive to make it happen makes me smile. Advances in clean energy and sustainability and a stronger focus on it is encouraging — as is our renewed effort to make our work accessible to all of Michigan's residents. As long as we can continue to be willing to stretch and grow, we will be okay.

Mary Ann Dolehanty, director of EGLE's Air Quality Division

  1. Dr. Mackenzie Davis was my professor at MSU for my first engineering class. His passion for civil engineering and his ability to engage students to share that passion was the turning point in my decision to pursue Civil Engineering as a career. Mac Mary Ann Dolehanty headshotbecame a mentor and a friend over the following years, from assisting with internships, co-authoring a paper, and acting as a technical contact. He was honest, smart, and he challenged me to do my best.
  2. Surround yourself with people you look up to and avoid those who bring negative energy. Maintain a positive outlook. Be curious, listen to others, consider all perspectives, look for common ground, and communicate effectively.
  3. One thing that concerns me is the continued attack on science and science-based policy. Engineering and science play a key role in identifying and solving the many societal challenges we face. We have a responsibility to know the science, engage in healthy debates, and use reason to develop the best policies for problem solving. We need to get back to a place where science is respected. One thing I'm happy to see is more women in leadership positions, especially those who bring engineering expertise. It's good to see these diverse perspectives and a focus on teamwork.

Amy Epkey, EGLE's Senior Deputy Director

  1. While I have been extremely fortunate to have many great role models, mentors, and coaches both personally and Amy Epkey headshotprofessionally, Nancy Duncan (retired State Budget Office Chief Deputy Director) is one leader who has had an immense impact on my career. Her dedication to state government, hard work ethic, and ability to know when to lead and when to follow are among the things I admire most about her. She taught me even when everything around you is changing, just keep showing up and moving forward.
  2. Keep working hard and striving to do better while recognizing who you are is all you need to be. Find others with strong work ethics and passion. Trust them. Support them. Be there for them — those relationships will be among your greatest successes (and keep you sane throughout your career!!!).
  3. There has been an increased commitment to inclusion of diverse opinions in the workplace and additional focus on the team rather than individual accomplishments. Both of which I believe are necessary for organizations to continue to succeed.

Emily Finnell, Great Lakes senior advisor and strategist in the Office of the Great Lakes

  1. I have been so fortunate to have many great mentors and leaders who have given me opportunities to grow and learn as a person and a professional. Frank Ruswick, Jon Allan, and Donna Stine were transformative leaders who recognized that the current model for natural resource and environment management was no longer effective and we needed new governance Emily Finnell headshottools. They taught me the value of long-term strategic thinking and building capacity for shared governance for natural resources and empowered me with leadership opportunities to hone these skills through impactful projects and initiatives. Through my work with Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University with Dr. Bill Taylor in Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, I learned the power of aligning organizational missions and building organizational and institutional partnerships to leverage resources to achieve greater impact in our collective work.
  2. It is really about the relationships that you build with others and having the ability to work strategically and effectively across organizational boundaries and vertically within organization that leads to successful outcomes in our work. Seek out opportunities to build these interpersonal and collaborative skills. The solutions for tomorrow's challenges will not be solved with solutions from the past. Achieving success in future will require working collaboratively to develop long-term forward thing vision and new creative, innovative approaches to drive progress toward that vision.
  3. The complexity of the challenges facing the Great Lakes and water resources continues to grow; however, I am inspired by the young talented leaders that are emerging from undergraduate and graduate natural resource and environmental programs which makes me confident the future is bright!

Ninah Sasy, Michigan's Clean Water Public Advocate

  1. I had the privilege of being raised by strong, passionate women. They modeled the importance of hard work and dedication early in my life. Early in my career, I was fortunate to work for Dr. Kevin Cavanagh who led with kindness and inclusiveness. Ninah Sasy headshotHis leadership style supported employee development and created an environment that nurtured innovation. I also had the privilege of working with so many other great leaders including but not limited to Susan Corbin, Dr. Herman Gray, Dr. Renee Canady and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. I have learned so many things from these leaders including the importance of integrity, persistence, and leading by example.
  2. Every experience is a learning experience. If you are not failing, then you are not trying. When you are passionate about your work then you must take chances. Sign-up for that workgroup or assignment that may be out of your comfort level — you will either rise to the challenge or learn from the experience.
  3. I have enjoyed seeing the infusion of equity into our work. We are tackling those tough conversations that have been avoid for some many years.

Teresa Seidel, director of EGLE's Water Resource Division

  1. Mary Ellen Cromwell was the first female district supervisor. She was smart, steady and just a little sassy.  She was a great mentor, who was willing to share her story and help others achieve their goals. Mary Ellen taught me to come with the solution Teresa Seidel headshotto the problem I was posing. If you raised an issue, she would ask you what you thought could be done to fix the issue.  She reinforced the need for critical thinking skills and the need for empathy for the people we work for and with.
  2. Always ask questions. You should be learning every day, so stay curious. Listen to learn and not to respond. When you are focused on what your response is going to be, you aren't listening to understand. Master your job and then search out and obtain more skills. Broadening your skills opens more doors and opportunities; but you have to be proficient in the work you are assigned for the new skills to be valuable.
  3. When I started working for the Department, there were very few women working in the industry; and almost none in leadership positions. Over my career, I went from being the only female in the office to the only female district supervisor, to one of many. There wasn't a female Division Director, now there are three and a female Department Director. It is important for women to not just be in the room, but to be at the table sharing their unique perspectives and views.

Regina Strong, Michigan's Environmental Justice Public Advocate

  1. My parents have served as my greatest inspiration throughout my life and my career. My father was a middle school math teacher and also worked part-time at the post office. My mother was a secretary at Cleveland Clinic. (I grew up in East Regina Strong headshotCleveland) They met at Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama. I learned so much from them about life, perseverance and determination. I was always encouraged to live my best life by helping others. The mantra that no one is better than you and you are not better than anyone else has resonated with me my entire life. When I have been faced with situations where someone may have tried to impose false perspectives of superiority over me, I have always remembered my parents' words and my response has always been to not buy into false perspectives and narratives, but to be the author of my own story and live in my power. This life lesson above all others has truly served me well throughout my life and career.
  2. I share many things with young professionals, but I always harken back to something a manager told me very early in my career — Nothing beats a failure, but a try. Those words are simple, but so empowering. If you are not willing to try, how will you ever know what's possible. I encourage them to explore, engage and stay positive. I truly believe that we have to be willing to take chances and explore to know how best to use our talents.
  3. Wow, what an interesting question. I see my field as advocacy, but at the core of why I do what I do is justice. My advocacy for justice has taken place from a range of perspectives throughout my career. I am very encouraged that my office exists and that the state of Michigan has made a commitment to addressing environmental justice. This is a positive change. In fact, as we emerge from the pandemic there is a new (and encouraging) focus on prioritizing environmental justice from the federal level to the local level. I am seeing a new acknowledgement of the history that has led to our current realities and am excited about where we are going together as we work to facilitate positive change and prioritize the impacts of our actions on people.

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