Alumna calls on engineering students to be the change

Published: Oct 6, 2021 9:00 AM

By Lauren Winton

Charria Campbell, ’05 chemical engineering, has been catalyzing connections for underrepresented students interested in engineering since she graduated from Auburn. Her time at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering shaped her career in ways she did not expect.

“The field of Diversity and Inclusion found me,” Campbell said. “My experience with the Engineering Academic Excellence Program (AEP) – then called the Minority Engineering Program – and the COSAM Drop-In Center at Auburn changed my life.”

Campbell came to Auburn after a fun E-Day visit and an offer for a scholarship. She had known she wanted to study engineering after her 7th grade math teacher introduced the idea to her.

“I met so many great people and knew I was going to the right school,” she said.

Although Campbell’s path started with excitement, she faced her share of challenges in school as a female and student of color. There were times in her engineering education where she did not know if she would continue forward with her degree.

“Dr. Dennis Weatherby and Dr. Overtoun Jenda were instrumental in my life. They helped me through the tough times, and with their support and the support of family, I decided to stay and finish my degree at Auburn,” Campbell said.

The late Dennis Weatherby served as the founder and director of the Minority Engineering Program, and Overtoun Jenda, assistant provost for special projects and initiatives and professor of mathematics, oversaw what was then the College of Science and Mathematics equivalent of AEP. With the support of these two individuals, as well as the help of her friends and professors, and several other administrators and staff who were instrumental in her success, Campbell found her community at Auburn and successfully graduated with her degree in chemical engineering.

“Before I graduated, Dr. Jenda asked me to stay on and help with the program over the summer. I knew I could see myself doing this,” Campbell said.

Although her interest in engineering had inspired her from a young age, Campbell said she always wanted to pursue a career in higher education.

After taking the job at Auburn, Campbell knew she was on the right career path. Her career has taken her across Auburn’s campus in various diversity and inclusion roles, to teaching math in a K-12 setting. But her love for diversity and inclusion work has brought her back once again to higher education.

“This job at Tennessee Tech opened, and it took me back to AEP work. Tennessee Tech is primarily an engineering school, and in my role I help connect underrepresented students with STEM fields,” she said.

For her work in diversity and inclusion, Campbell was recently nominated by Tennessee Tech’s president and Board of Regents to the Maxine Smith Fellows Program. In this role, she will work with other program appointees to increase diversity within higher education.

Aligning with her passion for diversity in higher education, Campbell is also a member of 100+ Women Strong.

“100+ Women Strong was one the first connections back to Auburn that I’ve had other than AEP,” Campbell said. “After participating in 100+ Women Strong, I have realized how impactful this program can be. It’s a fantastic program, and one we are implementing at Tennessee Tech.”

As someone who is a leader in diversity and inclusion and an engineering graduate who has seen her share of adversity, Campbell has a message for students:

“Expand your network, find community and don’t be afraid to speak up. Be a voice for the voiceless and be the change.”

Charria Campbell certainly is.

Media Contact: Lauren Winton,, 334.844.5519
Charria Campbell

Charria Campbell

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