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Meeting the Challenge

LaWanda Jones is not one to shy away from a challenge.

As a student, she handled a rigorous engineering curriculum. As an engineer who progressed into the marketing field, she prevailed over a different set of challenges. And today, as the first female to chair the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention (CACAARR) at Missouri S&T, she readily accepts a new challenge: to help S&T recruit a more diverse student body.

"There's no doubt an urgency for more technical minds needed to resolve our nation's most pressing issues," says Jones, the corporate marketing manager for ABNA Engineering and a 1991 civil engineering graduate. "As our population continues to experience a diverse shift, we must do all we can to prepare the next generations with educational opportunities to equip our society with leaders in technical careers."

Last year, Jones began her term as chair of CACAARR, following Gregory Skannal, a 1985 geological engineering graduate, who serves on the alumni association board. The committee, made up of alumni volunteers, advises the chancellor's office on matters related to African American recruitment. Established in the mid-1980s in response to concerns related to campus diversity, early members created a lasting platform and generated a series of scholarships for African-American students. And it's making a difference. Minority enrollment has nearly doubled since 2000.

To build on this foundation, Jones encourages her fellow alumni to support a new challenge, presented by Lt. Gen. Joe N. Ballard, who earned his master's degree from S&T in engineering management in 1972. Recently, Ballard and his wife Tessie donated $250,000 to create the Ballard Challenge to support more minority students at S&T. A portion of these funds is dedicated to providing $5,000 matches to encourage other alumni to endow scholarships of their own.

"Through this challenge, we have a unique opportunity to create a legacy which will empower African American talent for years to come," Jones says.

Posted on Sep 18, 2012.

Lawanda Jones

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