Every year the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Conference is held and honors professionals for their excellence in the STEM field. This year, the Kansas City District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers celebrated three employees who were awarded at the conference, held on Feb. 9 to Feb. 11, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
The winners from the Kansas City District were Beatrice Nwafor, LyTreese Lee and Arthur Saulsberry. Although all three winners are at different stages in their careers, being recognized and awarded at the 2023 BEYA STEM Conference was a full circle experience for each of them.
Beatrice Nwafor: Modern-Day Technology Leader Award
From a young age, Beatrice Nwafor, former mechanical engineer with the Kansas City District, was interested in buildings and how they were created. As a young girl, Nwafor would often accompany her father, who was in construction sales, to job sites. It was during these trips that she became interested in learning more about buildings and how they are made.
“I was always interested in how systems worked, how buildings were built, just the whole operation,” said Nwafor. “I really wanted to know in depth how they functioned so that was what kind of started my interest in engineering.”
Nwafor attended the University of North Texas, where she studied mechanical and energy engineering. She was hired as a mechanical engineer with the Kansas City District in 2018, where she worked until she accepted a new position with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2023.
Her time at USACE was well spent and her supervisors noticed her excellence at work. Nwafor was awarded the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award at this year’s BEYA STEM Conference for her work with USACE.
Nwafor expressed her gratitude to her former supervisors at USACE for nominating her for this award. Though she has moved on to other opportunities, Nwafor still thinks fondly of her time with USACE and said that winning this BEYA STEM award has reignited her passion for her career.
“What we do every day impacts the community, the world in general, and that kind of helps me think about why I did this, why I started this,” said Nwafor.
LyTreese Lee: Modern-Day Technology Leader Award
Few people can pinpoint the exact moment they knew what career they wanted to pursue. For LyTreese Lee, management support section chief at the Kansas City District, she remembers the exact moment she decided she wanted to become an engineer.
Lee was in 8th grade when her school attended a week-long STEM program at a local college. The students stayed on campus and learned all about STEM. At the end of the week, the students went to the project site for a bridge being built to see the work firsthand.
“I remember we went to this bridge … we saw every little aspect of engineering that was happening related to that bridge,” said Lee. “And so, as they were talking to us, I was like, okay, this is what I want to do.”
After that trip in 8th grade, Lee pursued her interest at Tennessee State University, where she studied engineering. During her sophomore year of college, Lee attended the BEYA STEM Conference and had the opportunity to interview with the Kansas City District. She was offered a job on-the-spot.
Lee was initially hired as a summer temporary employee with the Kansas City District before being hired in a permanent position as a structural engineer in 2004. She’s been with the Kansas City District for over 20 years. Her continued dedication to the mission was part of why she was awarded the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award at this year’s BEYA STEM Conference.
“It kind of comes back full circle to have received the award from this [BEYA], because when you get hired from that career fair, it’s good to be able to go back … to show you are still tied to engineering,” said Lee. “It’s just a privilege to have seen something come full circle.”
Arthur Saulsberry: Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award
As Arthur Saulsberry, deputy of the small business program at the Kansas City District, looks back on his career with USACE, he wishes he had broadened his focus in all STEM categories, not just business. However, his choice to study accounting was strategic and ultimately led him to his illustrious 37-year career with the Kansas City District.
“Knowing that accounting was something that all businesses have to have, I thought it would enhance my opportunities upon graduating,” said Saulsberry.
Saulsberry attended Southern University, where he majored in accounting. After graduating, Saulsberry worked as a civilian for the U.S. Army before being hired by the Kansas City District in 1993. He has been deputy of the small business program since 1996.
Throughout his career, Saulsberry has received many awards, accolades and recognition for his work. He is well-known and highly regarded within the district. However, being awarded the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award at this year’s BEYA STEM Conference was a special experience for Saulsberry.
“Most gratifying to me, particularly as we are in the midst of Black History Month … was to see all of these minorities being recognized,” said Saulsberry. “It’s good to be recognized and to have the type of senior leadership that promotes the awareness of work well done … and so it’s meant the world to me."
Receiving an award at the 2023 BEYA STEM Conference is a great accomplishment and was a full-circle experience for Nwafor, Lee and Saulsberry. The Kansas City District is proud to have such dedicated professionals as part of the team and represent the district in these categories.