A year ends and accomplishments are many

Cora Jackson-Fossett
Public Affairs Director
Department of Public Works
City of Los Angeles, California
Chair, APWA Diversity Committee

We accomplished quite a bit over the past year during my tenure as chair of APWA’s Diversity Committee, and I want to wish good luck to Augie Chang who will be assuming this position while I move over to the Membership Committee.

I also want to thank and wish good luck to all the other members of the Diversity Committee, Chapter Diversity Liaisons and all those others in the APWA family who lent their support to helping make our activities over the past year so interesting, so unforgettable and so fulfilling.

But before taking leave of this position, I would like to share with you some of the highlights over the past year of our efforts at addressing—and increasing—diversity in APWA.

Most recently, we planned and are conducting educational sessions on diversity at this year’s APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition to be held at the Kansas City (Mo.) Convention Center on September 10-13.

The titles of these workshops offer insights into the topics of discussions: One is called “Challenges of Diversity in Dealing with Emergency Response,” during which attendees will be taught the importance of supplying the three R’s to every emergency response activity: Rules, Routine and Respect. Robert Chandler, Ph.D., of Pepperdine University in Malibu, will lead the class.

The second session the Diversity Committee is presenting at Congress is called “Developing a Winning Workforce.” It deals with fostering attitudes of accountability and inclusiveness through the use of conflict resolution techniques, employee recognition and development tools, and recruitment practices that reach out to a diverse community. Speakers are Jennifer Adams, Rosa Inchausti and Glenn Kephart, P.E., of Tempe, Arizona.

The third session in which all should be interested is called “A View from the Top—Women in Public Works Talk about their Lives and Careers.” This panel discussion will feature women who have “made it” in the public works profession. They will discuss such topics as career paths and how young professionals can avoid specific pitfalls and missteps as they move forward in their careers.

In other achievements during last year’s Congress, the Diversity Committee held the largest First-Timers Meeting ever, with more than 200 newcomers in attendance. We hope this year’s turnout will be as good—or even better.

Building on its successful debut last year, the Women in Public Works Forum at the 2006 Congress will be a breakfast event with a speaker. The Diversity Luncheon has been changed to a Diversity Brunch and will feature Afsaneh Sunnie House, Vice President of the URS Corporation in San Diego. She will speak on “The Changing Role of Women in Public Works.” House’s career in transportation and public works spans 22 years in managing numerous complex projects for state and local agencies throughout California. She has just completed her term as the International President of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, and she has implemented numerous mentoring and professional development programs.

The Diversity Committee also prepared a diversity brochure for students on opportunities within the field of public works that will be distributed to chapters working on student membership programs.

Another activity involved submitting a statement to be added to the criteria for the PACE (President’s Award for Chapter Excellence) Award which will identify if a chapter is involved in inclusiveness activities within their chapter. The statement was approved by the Board and will be entered into the criteria for the 2007 PACE Award program.

A subcommittee of the Diversity Committee also worked with APWA’s Leadership and Management Committee to prepare background work on the role of women in public works. A survey was sent to women who attended the 2005 Women’s Focus Group and the responses were studied. The results of the survey will be shared during this year’s Congress.

Another activity of the committee during the year included the evaluation of submissions for the Diversity Exemplary Practices Award. The Engineering and Capital Projects Department Diversity Committee of the City of San Diego was selected to be the recipient of the award.

Our committee also followed up on responses to our survey of members interested in sharing their organization’s experiences in the area of diversity and agreed to make contact with Chapter Diversity Liaisons a minimum of three-four times a year. The focus for the first contact was to make them aware of the Diversity Committee’s web page and ask them to use it to share success of their chapter in the area of diversity/inclusiveness. The second contact was to advise them of the Board’s support for diversity in APWA, and to search out writers for essays on their experiences as women in the field of public works. The Diversity Committee will consider the submitted essays for publication at a future date.

Again, this has been a very good, enjoyable and productive year for me and the other members of APWA’s Diversity Committee. I look forward to working with APWA in the future in any capacity where I am needed.

Good luck to all of you and I urge you to make diversity and inclusiveness a way of life in all that you do.

Cora Jackson-Fossett can be reached at (213) 978-0319 or cjackson@bpw.lacity.org.

Photo captions:

Last year’s First-Timers Meeting was the largest one ever.

Attendees at last year’s Women in Public Works Forum discussed topics such as mentoring, networking, and creating flexibility in the workplace.