Chemical engineering alumna lends lasting career advice

By Cassie Montgomery

Published: Feb 3, 2021 9:15:00 AM

“Allow people to see your whole self and be proud of who you are.”

This is the advice Shirley Boulware, ’91 chemical engineering, extends to fellow Black Auburn Engineers. It’s also a mantra that she has followed herself throughout her engineering career.

“What I've learned over the last 30 years is that one of the things we have to be proud of as African Americans, whether students or whether we're professionals, is that we are African American. We’re different and we're diverse for a reason and so when you are on a team project or you’re making a presentation, own that diversity,” she said.  

Boulware’s successful career in the pulp and paper industry started with Union Camp Corporation where she spent seven years as a process engineer. After earning an MBA from Auburn University at Montgomery, she then joined Buckeye Technologies, later acquired by Georgia-Pacific, as chemical operations manager and held various positions in operations, leadership and human resources. Boulware recently joined Southwire as an HR director, where she serves as the human resource business partner for operations support, which includes environmental, health and safety, lean, quality, processing engineering, strategic sourcing, distribution, enterprise systems and process and planning.

“I think being a chemical engineer and in the pulp and paper option, your community at school is kind of defined for you so we became quite close. We were a small group and we had all our classes together,” she said. “There weren’t a lot of Black engineers at the time. I developed relationships through my diverse friend group – my best friends were actually a white male and a white female – and we did everything together when it came to engineering.”

Boulware has remained an active Auburn alumna, serving on the Auburn Pulp and Paper Foundation, the Engineering Alumni Council, the Chemical Engineering Alumni Advisory Council, 100+ Women Strong and supporting the college through the Eagles Society, the War Eagle Society and the Foy Society. She is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, is on the Board of Directors for the Auburn Alumni Association and the Auburn University Foundation, and served as one of the Decade Ambassadors for Black Alumni Weekend.

“I’m on campus a lot and I’ve been involved since I graduated. I always tell people I feel like I should know every African American student and chemical engineer so when I don’t, I try to make an effort to get to know them because I want to understand their experience,” she said. “It’s important for me to understand what I can do to help … I want to be that resource for students.”

To Boulware, the fact that a student has been accepted to Auburn Engineering is a sign that they are capable of success.

“I would say the most important message that I can give any student, particularly African American students, in engineering is to believe in themselves. They’ve already succeeded if they’ve gotten into Auburn and the engineering program,” she said. “In addition to that, I would tell them to also have fun.”

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, cmontgomery@auburn.edu, 334.844.3668

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