Category Archives: Black History Month

SWD Black History Month Spotlight: Dyron Jolly

by Jay Townsend

Dyron Jolly serves as a human resource specialist in the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Dallas, Texas, a position he’s held since May 2008. In this position, he is responsible for assisting the director of human resources in establishing and managing a comprehensive civilian human resources program and providing staff advisory and consultant services to the division commander, district commanders, subordinate district offices and all organizational elements.

Jolly assists in providing overall policy direction, oversight, and program evaluation of the administrative and technical aspects of human resource disciplines in the division and subordinate district offices.

Shortly after graduating from Alabama A&M with a degree in business marketing, Jolly was accepted into the Army Material Command Fellows Program in 2006, a five year program that allows candidates the opportunity to earn a Master’s in Business Administration from Texas A&M University, Texarkana in the first year of the program. Following the completion of a masters, the program is designed for “fellows” to rotate through on-the-job training assignments and make significant career advancements.

“The program grooms you to be a leader in the civilian workforce,” said Jolly. “You learn to be very multifaceted and get introduced to a large network of federal government professionals.”

After completing the fellows program consisting of numerous developmental assignments in HR, Jolly was selected for his current position, a position he says is his favorite.

“This position gives me a lot of flexibility and allows me to be creative when it comes to engaging the workforce and managing human resources,” Jolly said. “Furthermore, I have been able to take developmental opportunities at other Army organization to help further my career development.”

Growing up, Jolly was always inspired by the drive in his parents and their entrepreneurial spirit. However, in their quest to be prosperous entrepreneurs, he observed some hurdles his parents had to overcome to be successful in a southern Alabama town.

“There were times as business owners that my parents didn’t receive support because of the color of their skin,” Jolly said.

After watching this he knew he needed to get an education to level the playing field.

“My parents were entrepreneurs that had great ideas and products, but assumed a lot of business risk due to lack of knowledge in various aspects of business, marketing in particular,” Jolly said.

His desire to be creative and to pursue a business marketing degree comes from his parents and some of the challenges they faced.

“There is no doubt if I wanted to honor my parent’s hard work and sacrifices that I had to do whatever it took to get a higher education,” Jolly said.

Black History Month

The 2017 Black History Month theme is “The Crisis in Black Education.” Growing up Jolly was fortunate to go to good schools; however, like many others growing up in the south, he experienced some challenges and biases that have had an impact on minorities.

According to Jolly, one bias in particular is the use of standardized tests. He believes the use of standardized tests has it benefits, but that how and who develops the tests are important for ensuring equality.

“Often times, these tests are written and structured in ways that some disadvantaged kids tend to struggle with,” Jolly said. “While not making excuses for students who lack the desire to do well, scores on these tests don’t always reflect the capabilities of disadvantaged students or their intellect.”

He also said standardized test should be written in a manner that captures various learning styles because we are all different and learn in different ways.

“Standardized tests aren’t written for everyone.  I went to a good school and remember not understanding what some questions on the test were really asking because of terms I may not have been familiar with,” Jolly said. “We rely on standardized tests too much.”

He joins many that believe the opportunity gap leads to an achievement gap. On the other hand, he said struggles in education are only a product of deeper issues that exist.

“Sure standardized tests, lack of resources, and other things contribute to education challenges; however, one of the main problems is lack of strong families in the black community. Many grow up in broken homes, where they see their mom (the majority of the time) struggling to make ends meet. Some don’t know their father, others know their father but he is not very active. The majority of these kids are faced with dealing with situations and responsibilities that were never intended for a child to bear. How could they truly focus on school when being faced with circumstances that many grown-ups find difficult to face themselves? Couple this issue with schools that lack resources and a minimum number of teachers who care, you end up with a crisis. If you want to fix the crisis on education in the black community, figure out what happened to the black family. We need to fix the family, the rest will follow, including education,” Jolly said.


SWD BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT: FREDERICK OLISON

Frederick OlisonFrederick W. Olison serves as the Chief of Staff for the Southwestern Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dallas, Texas, a position he has held since July 2012.  The chief of staff is responsible for staff operations and policies associated with more than 2,800 employees across the region. Olison is a key integrator for focusing the efforts of the regional headquarters staff and four engineer districts to best accomplish the commander’s intent. He is the principal advisor to the SWD Commander and Deputy Commander in his assigned program areas.

Olison has worked for the Corps of Engineers for 11 years. Before taking on the role as chief of staff he served as SWD’s senior environmental engineer for the Planning and Policy Division.

Olison is also a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, where he served for more than 25 years. His time in service included a deployment to Iraq in 2003 and a mobilization to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2008.

Olison2

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1991 from Louisiana State University.  He completed postgraduate education at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Environmental Science and is a Registered Environmental Manger. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Project Management and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Born in Selma, Alabama in 1964, Olison shared his mother’s experience as a protester in his hometown. During a peaceful protest, police were called in to disperse the crowd. As the clash escalated and protesters ran for safety, Olison’s mother fell. As a mounted officer was about to strike her with a cattle prod, he realized she was pregnant and chose not to and let her go. The knowledge of that event has led Olison to a call to service and give back to his church, community and nation as a military and civil service member.

One cannot talk about important sites in Black History without discussing Selma, best known for the 1960s Selma Voting Rights Movement and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The activism in Selma generated national attention to social justice, and was an impetus for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed by Congress to authorize federal oversight and enforcement of constitutional rights of all citizens.

Black History Month

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

A. It’s always been my father. He’s good with his hands. We worked on cars together. Working with him is where my love for taking things apart comes from. Where we differ is I don’t like to get my hands as dirty, and I would wash my hands every time I got a chance. My father would always laugh and say you need to make sure you get an education because you will never make a living if you have to get your hands dirty.

My high school electronics teacher also helped put things in motion for me. I liked his class a lot. One time I got ahead of myself and tried to reverse the polarity on a transformer plugged in my parent’s stereo… I blew it up. Not good, surprisingly enough I did not get in too much trouble.

I’ve never lost that curiosity.

Q. What has been your favorite USACE job or program to work in

A. I would have to say it’s the one I’m in now. The diversity of issues I get to work on encompasses so much. I never know what’s around the corner. I work on a range of things from strategy, design and construction, talent management and resource management. The most recent program that I really like is getting to develop an internal supervisory training course. Cultivating a High Performance Culture focuses on empowering our supervisors with performance management, communications, and relationship building skills to build a more engaged and productive workforce.

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

A. This is a tough one for me to answer because whatever I’ve gone through pales in comparison to the challenges the generations before me went though. Regrettably, I do believe racial stereotyping is still prevalent and creates unfair challenges for blacks and other minorities.

We are always having to prove ourselves while others are shown deference. It frustrates me when a black student works hard to get into a “good” school and you hear people stereotyping their achievements by saying they got in because the school had to meet quota.

Stereotyping is demeaning, devaluing and hurtful and unfortunately I don’t think people realize how much they do it. My advice for others is don’t internalize negative stereotypes, it will only create self-doubt and they are not a true measure of your abilities. Seek to gain knowledge about those around you and educate them. I personally enjoy breaking down stereotypes.

Education is a key that opens many doors. I encourage black students and other minority students to take advantage of every educational opportunity available. A lot of sacrifices were made for us to have those opportunities.

If there’s a barrier in your way you’re going to have to figure out how to go over it, go around it, or break it down. I know that’s easier said than done for a lot of us. Each one of us has to decide how important it is to get an education to help us pursue and achieve our goals.