Celebrating Black History Month

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2/20/2023 9:39:02 PM

February is Black History Month, which celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that Black Americans have experienced as part of our country’s history. At Michael Baker International, we believe that our people are the core of our company and that we are at our very best when we embrace our collective differences, perspectives, backgrounds and cultures through respect, collaboration and teamwork.

We sat down with colleagues across Michael Baker to celebrate Black History Month and share their lives and experiences.


Yolanda Bell, Designer

Charlotte, North Carolina


Michael Baker: Tell us about your involvement with the Mid-Atlantic Region Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Committee.

Yolanda Bell: When I first heard about the DE&I Committee, I knew I had to be a part of it! I am one of six lead members. We organize meetings and encourage representatives from each office to engage with employees and help orchestrate events. I create a monthly calendar that lists all the holidays, highlights any month-long observances and includes a recipe of the month that is distributed to the Mid-Atlantic Region. We are excited about growing the committee and creating future events!

Michael Baker: What are the biggest opportunities and challenges you see for creating greater diversity in our industry?

Yolanda Bell: The greater the diversity we have in engineering, the more likely we are to make discoveries and solve problems. Having a mix of backgrounds, experiences and ideas helps to make this happen. Women and minorities are underrepresented in engineering. I feel there is a need to focus on all educational levels – K-12, undergraduate and graduate – to improve STEM education. By making hiring processes objective and measurable, we will be able to naturally set the bar at a point where successful hiring and performance will be inclusive of all qualified individuals, regardless of whether they are “different” than you.


Ray Wright, E.I.T., Civil Associate – Traffic

Richmond, Virginia


Michael Baker: What originally sparked your interest in your field?

Ray Wright: AP Physics originally sparked my interest in engineering, and a Traffic Engineering elective my junior year of college made me realize I wanted to be a Traffic Engineer.

Michael Baker: Can you share something in your life or career that you’re especially proud of?

Ray Wright: Graduating with a Civil Engineering degree is difficult in and of itself, but to do it with magna cum laude honors was an especially great feeling.


Sonja Simpson, Office Executive

Columbus, Ohio


Michael Baker: You were recently honored with the Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award from WTS Northeast Ohio. What does this honor mean to you?

Sonja Simpson: It is an honor, but the honor should be shared by everyone on the Great Lakes DE&I Committee – so many have contributed to ensuring that Michael Baker continues to step forward on that front.

Michael Baker: What are the biggest opportunities and challenges you see for creating greater diversity in our industry?

Sonja Simpson: The pipeline to further diversify just isn’t there. We need to feed the pipeline EARLY, in middle school and junior high. We are missing out on the opportunity.


Andrew Antonio Lewis, P.E., California T.E., Technical Manager

Ontario, California


Michael Baker: What originally sparked your interest in your field?

Andrew Antonio Lewis: Back on the island of Jamaica where I grew up, as a kid (around age 9), I started building clubhouses in the surrounding woods. It was one of the only things to do while living in a rural area of the Caribbean Islands. I then realized that I had to access all these clubhouses, so I built mud bicycle paths to connect them, then eventually ran overhead electric wires to light the way.

Michael Baker: Who has been the biggest influence in your life or career?

Andrew Antonio Lewis: The people who were there for me the most were my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. My high school physics teacher was my biggest influence in steering me toward civil engineering, as well as my technical drawing and CADD teacher.


Lydia Grose, Office Executive

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Michael Baker: You were recently honored with the 2022 Diversity Award from WTS Philadelphia. What does this honor mean to you?

Lydia Grose: The recognition from my peers and WTS Philadelphia was truly an honor. I am proud that I can lend my voice to this diversity journey in which anyone’s voice can add a ripple effect to change, no matter how small. 

Michael Baker: Tell us about your involvement with the Northeast Region DE&I Committee.

Lydia Grose: My involvement started locally in our Philadelphia Operations Offices in which I had the privilege to work on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to enrich our office, clients and community. Real change comes from within, and the development of the Michael Baker Diversity Councils was the catalyst to embrace the diversity of all our employees and clients. As the Northeast Region (NER) Council representative, I have the unique privilege to work alongside our employees to develop and promote initiatives to incorporate diversity and foster an environment of inclusion.


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