Karnel Walker, is the Global Business Director, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Member, African Heritage Employee Resource Group for Diversity and Inclusion Programs, as well as Lead, S2S Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board.
In this conversation, Mr. Walker reflects on the impact of S2S programs on students, especially ones from vulnerable communities; the partnership between S2S and Thermo Fisher Scientific in making the S2S Newark Technology Center a reality; and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
What initially brought you to S2S? What sparked your passion for S2S?
I came to S2S as a volunteer and was impressed with the program in terms of the level of sophistication in the lab and what it offered the urban community youth. In addition to seeing the kids work in the laboratory, it was the leadership at S2S that inspired me. Then, you layer on the role of the corporate role models and mentors and you have a fantastic recipe for success. What you see is students able to make a direct link to career paths that they would otherwise not be introduced to.
From the diversity and inclusion standpoint, too often students in vulnerable communities do not have role models of color to emulate. It was important to me and my fellow TFS team members that we could be part of a solution to bring more students into 21st century global STEM careers. With the support of Stan Nelson, S2S Board Member and Director, Food & iAgriculture Markets at Thermo Fisher Scientific, we were able to ignite a flame and passion throughout our African American Heritage Employee Resource Group to support S2S’s Newark Technology Center. Across the nation, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Analytical Instruments and Laboratory Products Groups – with their support we were able to equip the six analytical laboratories at the S2S Newark Technology Center. Our work at the TFS African American Employee Resource Group has been celebrated for its powerful impact in support of a community that is very important to our corporate philanthropy.
How do you see how other corporations can make diversity and inclusion a priority in the workplace?
At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we see it as a corporate priority. Leaders in the African American Heritage Employee Resource Group devote as much as 20 percent of their weekly goals to making that happen. When diversity and inclusion is a priority at your organization it becomes part of the corporate DNA. It’s also how you define diversity and inclusion. Here at Thermo Fisher Scientific, our Employee Resource Groups include a range of groups including the African Heritage, Latino, Women, Millennials, PossAbilities, LGBTQ, and Veterans.
We believe a partnership with S2S and TFS is very impactful. How do you see this partnership expanding over the next five years?
Of course, we will remain committed to supporting the model program in Newark and the S2S Newark Technology Center. But, we can also see that the virtual laboratory has global capabilities to tie our employees together behind great STEM education in communities where we work and live.
S2S brings authentic STEM education to vulnerable communities. Can you share with us why you believe that is important?
For me, it’s a matter of equity. Having a strong STEM background is a passport to jobs for the future.
If there are three adjectives to describe you to let people know who you are, what would they be?