Category Archives: People

Employee Spotlight

SWD Black History Month Spotlight: Cheryl Partee

Cheryl Partee, Chief, Business Resource Division and Chief Financial Officer for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Cheryl Partee, Chief, Business Resource Division and Chief Financial Officer for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cheryl Partee is the chief of the Business Resource Division and Chief Financial Officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Southwestern Division. The Business Resources Division is responsible for the direction and control of financial, manpower and other resources. It involves budgeting, finance and accounting, force development, management engineering and operations research. The focus is on the wise and legal acquisition, allocation, accountability and use of money, plant and people resources.

Partee’s previous position was as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington D.C. She was responsible for the headquarters staff operations and policies associated with a $45 billion construction and service enterprise with more than 34,000 employees across the world. Prior to this role, she was the Budget Officer for the Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division in Dallas, responsible for a multi-year/multi-million dollar budget that serviced the Division’s diverse civil and military funding requirements. On her off time she enjoys spending time with her family, home improvement projects and mentoring.

Partee, a 10 year USACE team member shared some of her thoughts on her career, Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and Black History.

Q. Who or what inspired you to choose your career field?

A. Ever since I was a child, I have always had an affinity for numbers. I used to have a photographic memory, which was helpful in math and science, my best subjects in school. In high school, I was inspired by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The work he did with the economy and Interest rates truly fascinated me; my dream was to work for Alan Greenspan. I have had a very rewarding government career in the Resource Management community, but ironically, my daughter is the one working for the Federal Reserve.

Q. What advice would you share with teenagers about choosing a STEM related or government service career?

A. I have mentored young students for many years and the most important thing I share with them is to follow their passion. You have to know what wakes you up in the morning; set goals and chart a path to achieve those goals. A STEM education is the cornerstone of any career; you will be hard pressed to pursue any career that STEM does not touch in some way. Government service on the other hand is about passion for what you do. I truly believe in government service and it is not about the pay because a government salary cannot always compete with the private sector, but the work it so very rewarding. Just knowing you can contribute to our Nation and its infrastructure in some way is rewarding in itself. The main thing is to not let anything stand in your way of dreams. What has worked for me is getting to the point where you can be “comfortable with the uncomfortable.” A STEM related or government service career is a great way to get there.

Q. What has been your most memorable USACE project or program?

A. Participating in USACE Diversity Outreach programs, like the Women of Color and Black Engineer of the Year conferences. My work with these two events over the past eight years is so rewarding because we promote STEM to 3,000-4,000 students through public and price sector organizations. It is an opportunity to reach one, teach one!

Q. The African American/Black History Month theme this year is Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories, is there a site or event in AA/BH that holds a special memory or meaning to you?

A. Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama. I was in the city for the planning of the 50 year memorial celebration and got to walk on the bridge. This site is prominent in African American/Black History Month history as the march from Selma to Montgomery that began at that bridge and resulted in what is known throughout history as “Bloody Sunday,”, was the lynchpin for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


SWD Black History Month Spotlight: Michael Sterling, PhD

Michael Sterling, PhD, PE is the Branch Chief of the Water Management and Infrastructure Safety Regional Business Technical Division for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Michael Sterling, PhD, PE is the Branch Chief of the Water Management and Infrastructure Safety Regional Business Technical Division for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Michael Sterling, PhD, PE is the Branch Chief of the Water Management and Infrastructure Safety Regional Business Technical Division for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has served in that position for the past four years. His area of responsibility includes 74 reservoirs and 760 miles of local protection projects, which have prevented more than $112 billion in flood damages.
Dr. Sterling has worked for the Corps of Engineers for 14 years. Previously, he served as the Chief of the Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch for the Galveston District. In this position, he was responsible for the hydraulic design of flood damage prevention, navigation projects and regulating reservoir operations. Other positions he’s held with the Corps include water management data manager in the Galveston District and principal investigator with the Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
A 1994 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. He also received a Master of Science degree in 1998 at Texas A&M University in Agricultural Engineering. Five years later, Dr. Sterling earned his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University in Civil Engineering. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in the states of Texas and Mississippi. In 2015 Dr. Sterling was named Black Engineer of the Year for Professional Achievement (Government Category) during the 29th Annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) ceremony in Washington D.C.

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Dr. Sterling has also authored multiple papers related to coastal environmental transport modeling and monitoring. In his free time he spends his weekends supporting youth sporting activities in which his elementary-aged son is involved. He was able to take a break from his day to share some thoughts on his inspirations, career and Black History, and is an ideal representative of both Black History Month and National Engineers Week.
Q. Who or what inspired you to choose your career field?

A. My passion for science and engineering was birthed through participation in science fairs. In high school, I participated in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, providing an annual forum for more than 1,700 high school students from more than 70 countries, regions, and territories. This unique experience not only crystallized my ambitions to pursue an engineering career but also my desire to expand awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers.

Q. What advice would you share with teenagers about choosing a STEM-related or government service career?

A. I would advise a teen who is inquisitive and likes solving problems to consider a STEM-related career.

Q. What has been your most memorable USACE project or program?

A. As part of its Flood Mitigation mission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency collaborated with USACE to update surge data for use in Texas coastal flood maps. I served as the Galveston District’s technical lead in this federal effort to revise flood maps in 17 coastal Texas counties, impacting 25 percent of the state’s population. This monumental effort occurs once in a generation; the last updates for coastal Texas were in the 1980s. The exercise required using supercomputing to update the surge estimates and extensive data collection and validation between the federal and county agencies.

Q. This year’s Black History Month theme is “The Crisis in Black Education.” Can you tell us about any education barriers you’ve overcome?

A. My K-12 educational experiences occurred during the 1970s and 1980s in a mid-sized central Texas city. I was part of the first generation to undergo forced busing to the “other side of the tracks” to racially integrate our local public school district. In implementing our school district’s desegregation plan, most of the campuses located in our city’s black neighborhoods had been closed. While attending integrated schools provided educational benefits, this change added physical distance and social barriers between these newly integrated campuses and the local black community. Despite these circumstances, I, along with many of my black classmates, became academic successes due to the support of individual teachers and administrators, coupled with the support of our families, neighborhood churches, and community groups.