Beth White

Education Program Manager at Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge, TN

Bachelor of Arts in Human Services

Please describe your position and what you enjoy most about it.

In my job, I lead, manage, develop and coordinate multiple Scientific Assessment and Workforce Development programs for federal clients with emphasis on recruiting and maintaining diversity in the STEM workforce. Programs are administered through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Institute, managed by ORAU under contract with DOE.

I am responsible for budget management and forecasting, FAR compliance, and administration of program benefits; ensuring compliance with ORISE and Federal agency program policies as well as contract and federal guidelines; conducting outreach, providing application review, financial and annual reports; identifying process improvements and completing program assessment. I identify new business opportunities by developing relationships with current and potential clients; and plan and execute local and national events for clients including DHS and DOE.
My current portfolio includes: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Homeland Security Investigations-ICE, Customs and Border Protection, FEMA, etc), U.S. Department of Defense, Library of Congress, United States Geological Survey, Smithsonian Institution, and National Aeronautics Space Administration.

I regularly contribute to cross-unit projects for process improvement, promotion of innovation and extending research surrounding recruitment, retention and other educational issues for underrepresented groups in STEM.

I love identifying STEM talent and working to facilitate collaborations between academia and our Federal partners with the goal of increasing access to STEM careers and mediating some of the barriers to persistence in STEM fields.

What aspects of your HLGU experience helped you prepare for your career?

My experience at H-LG and my belief that all persons are valuable and have potential given the right tools and access guides me every day as I seek out first generation students, like myself, as well as students who are underrepresented in STEM fields. I strive to come alongside them and gently guide along the way, as numerous faculty members did for me, so that they too can succeed, both in academia and in their future careers. At H-LG, I learned to live my faith in such a way, that even when I am not in a space where I am free to share, others know that something is “different” about me. I learned to get along with all kinds of people and that everyone has something to teach you, even if that “something” is learning how you do not want to act towards others.

What have you enjoyed most about your career?

I enjoy many things about my career. My career has allowed me to travel extensively. I spend a lot of time in Washington, DC, and other cities as assigned. I get to meet people and be in spaces that others just watch on TV. The blessing and responsibility of this is humbling. I have been blessed with many mentors who have helped me develop my management and teaching skills so that I can help others. I get paid to do what I love- help others develop to their fullest potential by connecting them to the resources to do so, while providing service to my country.

Have you or are you currently continuing your education? If so, please list the institution(s) and degree(s) you earned or are working toward.

I went on to earn two Masters degrees- one in Religious Education and one in Marriage and Family Counseling from Southwestern Seminary when I left H-LG. After working in private practice and higher education as an instructor for 12 years, I completed a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research with a research interest in Adult Learning from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. I maintain my license as a Clinical Professional Counselor, and have numerous other certifications. I also continue to teach part-time, entering my 24th year this past fall.

How did HLGU shape you as a person?

H-LG solidified values learned at home that I carry with me in my career- integrity, honesty, hard work, and kindness come to mind first. These are directly related to living my Christianity in work spaces that are not always conducive to expressing personal beliefs or welcoming of those beliefs.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

I have been blessed with numerous career accomplishments and awards. I am always humbled and surprised when notified of such commendations or grant awards. My recent election to fill the position of chair of the Professional and Organizational Development in Higher Education Network (POD) STEM Special Interest Group is a highlight for sure!

I absolutely LOVE hearing the success stories of former research students who didn’t always see the potential in themselves that I saw and encouraged in them. Those emails notifying me of their accomplishments are the BEST!

However, my most personally fulfilling accomplishment was when Dr. Breland, who is now at William Carey University, invited me to come and train his faculty as part of their QEP on undergraduate research mentoring- an area of expertise I continue to develop. As my mentor, his acknowledgement of me as a professional, and the trust he placed in me with training his faculty mentors for their undergraduate research efforts was truly an honor.

What HLGU professors played a part in your success? How did your relationship with faculty help you succeed?

Dr. Garry Breland and Drs. Bob and Martha Bergen, and, of course- Mr. Manzke! Each of these professors holds a special place in my heart and professional life. Dr. Breland’s example and leadership in my degree program were critical to my success, but his personal commitment to my scholarship beyond my time at H-LG is a true testament to his character and an example I have followed to make myself available beyond my students’ “official” time with me. He was one of the key players in maintaining my sanity during my dissertation! Dr. and Dr. Bergen modeled scholarship as well as work-life balance and, like Dr. Breland, a love and concern for students that went beyond the classroom. And, then, there’s Mr. Manzke! I don’t even know where to begin. I think one of the biggest things Mr. Manzke gave me was self-confidence and pride in who I am. He ALWAYS called me Miss White, and when I asked him about it one day, he told me that I should expect others would treat me with respect and that was his way of modeling for students, especially female students, how they should be treated in the workplace to come. I continue that by always calling someone by their appropriate title, a practice that has served me well.

Do you have any tips to share with students interested in this field?

I wish I had known that it is always okay to ask for help and that there is ALWAYS someone in the room who is smarter than you, and someone who wished they were you. Instead of being intimidated by those in powerful positions, or with more expertise, seek to learn what they know and how they have gotten to where they are. Then fill in those gaps in your own knowledge. Never be afraid to take a chance and never EVER give up. Take a break if you need one, re-calibrate and move forward tomorrow.

If you have students interested in STEM in Federal work spaces, or STEM fields in general, I would love to speak to them.

What are some of your favorite HLGU memories?

Oh My! I don’t know where to start… I LOVED my time at H-LG. I lived in Kleckner- BEST dorm ever- (Angie, Tammy, Becky, Teresa)!! There are MANY memories there, but especially the night of finals my senior year when the roof caved in and water flooded the second floor and came down to my room on the first…, there were the midnight breakfasts, New Edition trips, plays at the Orpheum, sledding on cafeteria trays that I am sure we returned…, the fire and semester of eating off-campus and classes in the trailers,… Mrs Davis, Paula,… Dr. Bergen racing students to class, … all night study sessions, …. Fifth Street Baptist Church,….I could go on and on.

What on-campus activities were you involved in at HLGU?

New Edition and BSU

HLGU’s motto is “knowledge for service.” What roles have these values played in your life?

Knowledge for Service became my life motto. I have been incredibly blessed in so many areas and I feel like I have a responsibility to help others succeed in the same ways that I was also helped. I am serving my country and assisting both faculty and students in their pursuits and having a blast doing it. Knowledge for service- what more could anyone want?

What is one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started in the field?

I wish someone had given me a cheat sheet for ALL of the acronyms in the government. I wish someone had told me that the Walgreens near the Capitol has an amazing sushi chef on staff and a place to sit and eat- and a million other DC well kept secrets. I wish I had bought a Metro card earlier. I wish I had known how very much God would bless me in this new work space as I took a chance and made huge transitions in my career.


Follow Dr. White on Twitter @BethAWhitePhD1  or LinkedIn