Virginia Booth Womack | Director

Contact Information
Office: Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1264
Phone: (765) 494-3974

Virginia (Lynn) Booth Womack is from Indianapolis, Indiana. The first in a family of five to attend college, Virginia received a four-year scholarship to Purdue University from Father Boniface Hardin, President of what was then known as Martin Center College in Indianapolis, Indiana. Martin Center College is now known as Martin University. She is a Purdue University graduate with a B.S. Degree in Industrial Engineering and a B.A. Degree in Psychology. While at Purdue, Virginia was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and actively involved with Purdue's Minority Engineering Program (MEP). She was mentored by Purdue University President Emeritus, Dr. Arthur Hansen and challenged to run for National Chair of NSBE with a commitment from President Emeritus Hansen and Purdue University to help support the foundation of the national body.

After being elected, Purdue University provided an office for the first National Headquarters. Virginia was invited to speak at the National Advisory Council for the Minorities in Engineering consortium in Washington D.C. In attendance were Fortune 500 CEOs and University Presidents from top academic institutions that gathered together to determine how to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the fields of engineering and science. Her open, candid, and personal discussion of the needs of African American students pursuing engineering and science, and the personal responsibility such students embraced by forming NSBE, launched national support for NSBE from both corporate and university leaders. As the first female National Chair and the first to serve two consecutive terms of office, over 50 universities received their official 'charter chapter' status during her two terms of office.

While still a student, Virginia worked under Marion Williamson-Blalock and assisted in developing many of the activities that are still vital elements of MEP at Purdue University. She served as Assistant to the Director of MEP during the inception of the MEP Freshman Orientation Seminar (Engineering 180) and the formation of other minority organizations now well established at Purdue.

Virginia has worked for Proctor & Gamble, Eli Lilly Corporation, RCA, General Dynamics, and served as School Administrator for Bibleway Christian Academy (Toledo, Ohio) serving grades Preschool through 12. Before coming to Purdue, she worked at DaimlerChrysler Corporation where she spent 10 years and served as Lean Manufacturing Manager for the Powertrain Division. She was responsible for 100% implementation of training and integration of lean manufacturing principles. 

As the Director of MEP, Virginia has worked to continue the legacy established at Purdue through the tireless efforts of Ms. Blalock and others in the effort to increase the number of engineering graduates from Purdue University among those who traditionally have been underrepresented in the fields of engineering and science. Virginia recently served as Interim Executive Director for NSBE. The Dean of the College of Engineering allowed Virginia to be on loan to NSBE as their Interim Executive Director while they conducted a search, secured, and transitioned a new Executive Director. During this period, Virginia successfully managed a 14-million-dollar operation with approximately 30 employees through a very difficult transition. She oversaw and maintained organizational viability, increased corporate sponsorship, program outreach, and professional development.

In addition to leading MEP and transforming the lives of the next generation of engineers that pass through MEP, Virginia is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Purdue University with a focus on inclusive leadership across academia, corporations, and civic engagement. She plans to use her research to inform national efforts in broadening the participation of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Dr. H. E. Parker | Associate Director

Contact Information
Office: Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1264
Phone: (765) 494-3974

Dr. Parker has over ten years of experience supporting and developing campus-wide initiatives to promote student success and facilitate student, faculty, and staff professional and personal development programs. In her role, she supports various programs and initiatives that aim to advance engineering learning, discovery, engagement, and retention of historically underrepresented students in the College of Engineering. She is passionate about going beyond the traditional curriculum to foster the development of sought-after "power skills," such as global and intercultural competence, and providing GRIT+ (Purdue Engineering Experiential Learning) opportunities for MEP students throughout their Purdue careers. An example is the STEP-Abroad trip to Brazil, the first study abroad trip with 100% minority student participation in 2019. See highlights of that program in this video

As a Purdue alum and long-term staff member, Dr. Parker has a vast network and ongoing collaborations with the Center for Instructional Excellence (CIE) and the Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment, and Research (CILMAR) to promote and assess curricular and co-curricular intercultural and cross-cultural learning options. The collaborations also involve facilitating innovative research on intercultural competency and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion topics of interest to the university and the field.

Dr. Parker received her Bachelor of Science and Doctorate degrees at Purdue. She is a qualified administrator and facilitator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), the Beliefs, Events, and Values Inventory (BEVI), the Global UP, AFS Global Competence Certificate, the Intercultural Communication Edge (icEdge), ICQ Global, and certified as a Global Inclusion Practitioner
Renee Gibert | Lead Program Manager

Contact Information
Office: Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1255
Phone: (765) 494-3978


Derrick Williams-Bacon | K-12 & Undergraduate Programs Administrator

Contact Information
Office: Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1264
Phone: (765) 494-3974

Derrick Williams-Bacon is a native of Gary, Indiana. Derrick received both his Bachelor of Science in Organization Leadership (1997) and Master of Science in Technology Education (2001), at the Purdue University main campus.

Derrick returned to Purdue in 2004 to spearhead the Purdue Musical Organization's recruitment, diversity, and retention initiatives. While serving in this capacity, he increased overall participant diversity by 13%. He then joined Purdue Bound, where his many responsibilities included outreach, K12, STEM engagement experiences, student success, research, career refinement, and mentoring. As a member of the Purdue Bound Corporate Advisory Board and as the Student Success Coordinator of Purdue Bound, Derrick worked directly with university leadership and corporate sponsors to bolster the preparation and inclusion of underrepresented minorities in STEM. His responsibilities included providing performance metrics in outreach, recruitment, and retention for Purdue Bound participants as well as recommendations for continuous improvement. During his eight years with Purdue Bound, Derrick saw more than 100 students attain STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

Derrick was a vocational counselor and workshop facilitator at the Indianapolis Private Industry Council (IPIC) in Indianapolis, Indiana. The IPIC provides consulting services for the engineering, accounting, research, and management sectors. While working on his Master's degree in Educational Technology, he gained manufacturing experience with General Motors as a production supervisor. He also taught an applied leadership course, OLS 274 in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute from 1998 - 2001. Derrick has teaching experience in the Gary public school system and at Indiana Wesleyan University, teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Derrick joined the Minority Engineering Program team in 2019, and brings a wide array of talents and experiences. 

He uniquely understands what it is like to overcome the challenges of being a first-generation, underrepresented minority on a predominantly majority campus. His passion is to make a real difference in student access and success in STEM fields. 


Mary Kenner | Operations & Finance Coordinator

Contact Information
Office: Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1264
Phone: (765) 494-3974

Mary Kenner joined the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) team in the fall of 2017 as the Operations and Finance Coordinator. She is responsible for providing operation and finance support for various events and programs organized by MEP.

Prior to joining MEP, Mary worked as a Legal Secretary for Stuart & Branigin LLP, in Lafayette, Indiana. 

Mary earned her B.A. in Communications and minor in Sociology from Purdue University. She also holds an Associate's Degree in Office Administration and a Paralegal Certificate from Ivy Tech State College.

Mary was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and raised in Crawfordsville, Indiana. She is married to Pastor Cordell Kenner of Lafayette. Together they have six children, a host of grandchildren, and enjoy helping other families by foster parenting in the Lafayette Community. 

Heather Marie Coar, M.S. | Assistant Director of Communications 

Contact Information
Communications for Minority Engineering Program & Women in Engineering Program
Office: Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1226
Phone: (765) 494-6611
Heather Marie Coar, M.S., splits her full-time assignment across two units in the College of Engineering at Purdue: the Women in Engineering Program and the Minority Engineering Program. In this shared position, Heather leads all of our communications efforts to future students including web and graphic design, print materials, strategic communication, social media, and more.

Prior to that she was the Communications Specialist for the School of Mechanical Engineering. A proud Boilermaker since January 2012, Heather's other passion is teaching with the Brian Lamb School of Communication. She has taught COM 495, Special Topics in Public Relations, and currently teaches (when available), COM 353, Problems in Public Relations - a course that allows students to plan public relations campaigns for non-profit organizations in the Lafayette community under her direction. 

Heather received her B.A. in Advertising, Public Relations, and Graphic Design, from Grand Valley State University in 2006, and her M.S. in Communications from Grand Valley in 2009. She recently finished her Women in Leadership Certificate from Cornell University (June 2020) and intends to pursue her Ph.D. in Global Public Relations at Purdue University.

She is a Southwest Michigan native, enjoys spending time at Lake Michigan during the summer with family and friends, traveling, attending concerts, spoiling her pet bunny Scrumpy, staying current on cars and technology, and anything Swedish that keeps her connected to her roots.
Tamara L. Markey | Director of National Replication Algebra by Seventh Grade

Contact Information

Tamara Markey is an innovative, passionate, and dynamic educator. She draws from and applies to her work in education, nearly a decade of real-world experience as an Engineer with Amoco Oil and BP Pipelines. Mrs. Markey is a Woodrow Wilson STEM Teaching Fellow and a certified Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Instructor. She has taught Pre-engineering at McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology and served as a STEM/PLTW District Coach in the Lawrence Township Metropolitan School District. Tamara is presently working with the Purdue Minority Engineering Program, championing the elementary level math initiative, Algebra by 7th Grade, to address performance gaps in mathematics for underrepresented students and to increase minority interest and program eligibility in STEM majors.

Tamara is the 2019 Indiana Teacher of the Year, a 2019-2020 Indiana University Armstrong Teacher Educator, a 2018 Lawrence Township Design Excellence Co-Award Winner, and in 2017 received the Engineering Technology Educators of Indiana Program Excellence Award.

She holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and an M.S. in Engineering Technology Education, both from Purdue University.

She has served as an Advisor Lead in her school to support teachers in the areas of guidance and counseling while also identifying and assisting students with their educational pathways, socio-emotional wellness, and life experiences. She founded the MCIT Girls in Technology program, aimed to increase exposure and interest of middle school girls in Engineering and other technology-driven fields. She has served as a member of the Indiana STEM Cadre, addressing the state's STEM certification process and metrics, in addition to serving on the Lawrence Township STEM Coalition Task Force.

Tamara is a devoted wife of thirty years and a proud mother of three children and one Golden Doodle.

Tasha Zephirin | Graduate Assistant (NAMEPA)
Ph.D. Candidate School of Engineering Education

Contact Information

Tasha Zephirin, is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is the executive assistant for the National Association of Multicultural Program Advocates (NAMEPA) Inc., co-coordinator of the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group, and has also served as the Graduate Student Representative on the Purdue Engineering Advisory Council.

Tasha has lived in both the U.S. and Caribbean, growing up primarily in Barbados. She developed an interest in engineering education research while pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech. This interest was developed through research and teaching experiences in their engineering education department and leadership roles in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at the Chapter, Regional, and National levels. While at Purdue she has participated in the National Science Foundation sponsored Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship in Magnetic and Nanostructured Materials (IGERT-MNM) program − a collaborative effort with Cornell University and Norfolk State University.

Her research interests include exploring the role of noncurricular engineering education initiatives in the engineering experience − especially within and across cultural boundaries. Her current research focuses in initiatives designed to address diversity, inclusion, and equity goals. Through this research, she aims to inform the development and evaluation of engineering education initiatives in a variety of contexts.

She has previously worked with the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) as a Head Counselor and Co-Summer Program Coordinator for MEP programs (Summer 2013) and as a Graduate Assistant in 2014. As a Graduate Assistant, she held both leading and supporting roles in the design and implementation of services for pre-collegiate and collegiate students as well as facilitating additional advisory support for Presidents of student organizations that have a focus within underrepresented student populations (AISES, MAES, NSBE, SHPE). She has also helped further engineering education research efforts within MEP programming and co-authored conference proceedings with MEP staff. 

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