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SIUE alumna champions women of color in STEM

Although many strides have been made to increase diversity within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, Black and Hispanic workers, specifically women, remain underrepresented in the technological workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

By participating in an Information Technology Senior Management Forum program uplifting women of color in STEM, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Engineering alumna Dr. Tyria Riley is working to increase the representation of women of color at senior levels in technology.

An East St. Louis native, Dr. Riley graduated from the SIUE in 2002 with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Currently, she serves as the Boeing Defense Space and Security mission systems model-based engineering Senior leader at The Boeing Company. In this role, she is responsible for leading the adoption and implementation of model-based engineering and model-based systems engineering technologies across the mission systems enterprise function.

In a previous role as the BDS technology digital acceleration office senior leader, Riley was nominated for the ITSMF Emerge Academy, a 10-month leadership development experience specifically designed to support women of color in technology.

“The unique thing about Emerge Academy is that it takes the approach of developing the ‘whole being,’ thus enabling you to show up as your authentic self,” explained Riley. “This program explores topics such as executive presence, networking and effective communication, and it also covers personal vision and mission building, personal branding, and embracing one’s cultural identity while working in tech.”

The program included one-on-one executive coaching, energy assessment and management with certified energy practitioners, and access to ITSMF professional development seminars. Dr. Riley was one of 31 women in the 2021 cohort who completed the program.

Her cohort, named the Black Diamonds, produced “Something Bigger: An Emerge Academy Capstone Film” as their final project in the program. The short film highlights personal stories of the cohort, as well as the volunteer activities they conducted throughout their time with ITSMF.

“The purpose of this video was to use our platforms to showcase our cohort, shed light on common challenges that women of color in STEM face, and bring awareness to the work needed to unearth other Black Diamonds in STEM,” shared Riley. “We realize that we are part of something bigger, and there is a world out there that needs to hear our stories. Our goal is to increase the number of women of color in STEM, so it is imperative that we are visible in our communities to show what is possible.”

Within Boeing, Riley has received several internal recognitions for her leadership and innovation on various projects. In 2020, she received the Technology All-Star Women of Color in STEM Conference award, recognizing the success she’s achieved throughout her career.

“Receiving the 2020 Women of Color Technology All-Star award meant a great deal to me,” she said. “Technology All-Stars are accomplished women of color from mid-level to advanced stages of their careers that demonstrate excellence in the workplace and in their communities. Being recognized by my leadership at Boeing along with the Career Communications Group not only emphasizes the value of diversity in STEM but higlights the importance of diversity to The Boeing Company. This award allowed me to slow down to reflect over my career and community involvement and really take inventory of the amazing things that I have been fortunate to be a part of.”

During her time at SIUE, Dr. Riley was active with the University’s Chapter of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) as a chapter member, secretary and president. Upon graduation, she continued developing her leadership and community involvement with NSBE as a technical professional, ascending to leadership on regional and national executive boards.

“For those who are students in STEM or even early in their career, I encourage you to  keep going,” said Riley. “We need your talent and skill to advance technology even higher levels. Take advantage of the resources available to you within the University and be adaptable in navigating coursework, networking, and personal development. Be credible and ensure that you put effort into learning your craft. Always be a student to the body of knowledge. As technology evolves, we must continuously enhance our toolbox to remain relevant in industry.”

The School of Engineering offers one of the most comprehensive and affordable engineering programs in the St. Louis region with eight undergraduate degrees, five master’s degrees and two cooperative doctoral programs, all housed in a state-of-the-art facility. Students learn from expert faculty, perform cutting-edge research and participate in intercollegiate design competitions. Companies in the metropolitan St. Louis area provide students challenging internships and co-op opportunities, which often turn into permanent employment. All undergraduate programs are accredited by their respective accreditation agencies.

PHOTO: SIUE School of Engineering alumna Tyria Riley.

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