Dr. Dorian Newton of N3B-Los Alamos is to be honored as a Black Engineer of the Year Saturday in Washington, DC. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Dr. Dorian Newton headed to Washington, DC Thursday for the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Conference which celebrates its 34th anniversary Feb. 13-15. Newton, who is Technical Services Director for N3B, will accept the BEYA award for Educational Leadership – Corporate Promotion of Education at a gala event Saturday evening.
The goal of the BEYA conference is to create connections between students, educators and professionals while facilitating partnerships with individuals and their local STEM resources. To those who are familiar with Newton’s work throughout the region since he came to Los Alamos two years ago, the theme of this year’s BEYA conference, “The Global Catalyst for Change: Making the Untapped Potential Possible”, could have been decided with him in mind.
HII has been involved with the BEYA conference as a sponsor for several years.
Newton grew up in Houston, Texas. He says he attended college for a while before spending eight years in the U.S. Navy. Then he went back to school and got his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Old Dominion University and went on to earn his master’s in systems engineering and doctorate in engineering management at George Washington University. All his schooling was accomplished while working – building aircraft carriers and working on a refueling complex over aircraft carriers for Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of HII.
“I started with them in 2002 right after I came out of the Navy. I went from the ships I was riding on to doing overhauling on those same ships, so it was fun,” Newton said.
In 2015, Newton said he started doing work for the Department of Energy at the Savannah River K-Area Complex before joining the N3B-Los Alamos team.
Since coming to Los Alamos, Newton has been knee-deep in the world of workforce development, apprenticeship programs and training. He has joined the boards of the Regional Development Corporation, Northern New Mexico College, Bradbury Science Museum and the Northern New Mexico Workforce Development Board.
Newton has helped N3B expand its workforce training programs across Northern New Mexico by establishing an apprentice program and a Radiological Control Technician (RCT) boot camp, as well as other educational initiatives geared toward improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
The apprentice program is a collaboration with Northern New Mexico College and N3B hopes to expand to other institutions of higher education across New Mexico.
“Participants in the program are paid to work alongside highly-skilled nuclear professionals while they are taking college courses to qualify as nuclear operators. Once they complete the program, they are offered a permanent position with N3B,” Newton said.
Newton reminisced on when he was a supervisor working on refueling complex overhauls and he had a group of test engineers that worked for him on the ship.
“We had different qualifications and we had to bring them through in order to be successful, so I actually starting with developing them and figuring out their qualifications. I also did the same sort of thing in the Navy and a lot of that led up to what I do right now,” he said.
He said mentoring has always appealed to him.
“Going back to my background, I had a lot of great support from family when I was in high school. I was blessed to be able to pick up things very quickly, however when I went away to college I was not very disciplined,” Newton said. “I was very disciplined at doing things that did not go towards my degree, so I had a very good time in college the first time. Ultimately, it was the traditional story – I didn’t do well there and ended up leaving and going to the Navy.”
“The Navy nuclear power program had a very structured training program which is kind of what we built our Northern New Mexico program on. The Navy program was a cohort model that took you through in a group with very strong required study hours and structured mentorship and that was the piece that I was missing. Throughout my career I’ve gone through various models like that and that’s kind of the model we employ. It worked for me,” he said.
Newton’s nomination for the BEYA award was focused on the program that N3B has built in Northern New Mexico along with the collaborative partnerships they have built in order to be successful.
“I was able to come here and be a catalyst to bring a lot of people together to build a program,” he said.
Newton noted that N3B got together with the academic institutions, the state and economic development groups and figured out how they could collaboratively develop a system for workforce development that can be impactful.
“We had a lot of passion from Dr. Rick Bailey at Northern New Mexico College, Dr. Cindy Rooney at UNM-LA and Workforce Solutions Sec. Bill McCamley. Everybody was able to have their own piece they could bring to the plate,” he said.
Newton said he had to build an apprenticeship program modeled the Newport News program which he said is a brick and mortar institution that has had apprenticeship programs for 100 years.
Since the apprenticeship program has been in place, N3B has also established “boot camps” to help increase the workforce but also aimed towards creating some living wage jobs in Northern New Mexico.
The RCT Boot Camp is a 12-week training program in partnership with UNM-LA for students interested in nuclear safety and compliance. Participants take classes at UNM-LA and receive hands-on training with N3B staff in the field
Newton recalled a phrase he heard at one of his graduations from a Navy admiral.
“He said leadership is a marriage between opportunity and ability. That struck a chord with me because ability is the thing I can work on as an individual. I have an innate ability I can work on to build it, but if the opportunity is not there, then no matter how much work I put into it, I’m not going to be able to be successful. And vice versa, if the opportunity is there and I don’t put the work into my ability, I’m not going to be able to do it,” he said. “I’m blessed and excited that we are able corporately to provide opportunities.”
Newton’s wife Jermaine also works for N3B in the payroll division.
“She makes sure I put my time in,” Newton chuckled.
In an N3B press release Thursday, N3B President Glenn Morgan said Newton has worked tirelessly to help provide educational opportunities that lead to secure, stable employment for Northern New Mexico students.
“We’re pleased he is being recognized for his efforts,” he said.