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Robins Special Emphasis Program Managers: Increasing workforce diversity

  • Published
  • By Kish Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

The Robins Air Force Base Special Emphasis Program Managers are working to enhance employment and employee development. 

“They fall under the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion construct,” said Melissa Bryant, 78th Air Base Wing Affirmative Employment Program manager. “We take a proactive approach for employees to discuss any areas of concern and get a grasp on those issues before they want to file an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint, which would be a reactive measure.”

There are seven SEPMs who collaborate with Bryant’s office. They oversee the following programs: Black and African American Employment Strategy Team, Disability Action Team, Hispanic Empowerment and Advancement Team, Indigenous Nations Equality Team, LGBTQ Initiatives, Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team, and the Women’s Initiative Team.

All are dedicated to creating a sense of belonging to Team Robins’ members who have historically been marginalized.

SEPMs also support initiatives by helping address professional development, along with advancement and training of underrepresented groups, so they have the opportunity to reach their full employment potential.

“My role is to identify barriers that might be affecting people in my appointed group,” said Beth McDonald, Indigenous Nations Equality Team manager. “I want to try to make sure their culture isn’t lost as they try to serve our country.

“Indigenous military members are now allowed to let their hair grow or wear certain ceremonial pieces in their hair to highlight their culture,” she continued. “For a long time, men on active duty were forced to cut their hair and in the Native American culture hair is considered to be a part of the soul. So, it was very hurtful that they had to make those accommodations to serve a country they loved.”

With the Air Force being a microcosm of America, these programs are working to ensure the installation is culturally competent and considerate, as well as operating effectively and efficiently to accomplish Robins’ various missions.

“I handle reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities,” said Stephanie Hawthorne, Disability Action Team manager. “I get to work with people who thought working for the military wouldn’t be an option. I’m here to say, there is a place for you here at Robins.

“A lot of employees are unaware that they can get assistive technology and services if they have a disability,” Hawthorne continued. “For instance, the Computer/Electronics Accommodations Program provides computer electronic magnification devices or Braille terminals for vision impaired workers or for the hearing impaired, there are specialized phones that will allow them to still do their job.”

All CAP services are free of charge.

“We want to take away the stigma that Robins doesn’t care about people with disabilities,” said Hawthorne. “We can be a model employer for people with disabilities by committing ourselves to providing equal access and services and even increase the representation of individuals with disabilities.”

The SEPMs also work closely with installation managers and supervisors in an effort to maintain a high level of program awareness.

Employees are encouraged to contact their Special Emphasis Program Manager for opportunities to serve as an office liaison.

“We want everyone to know about this program and our goals,” said Bryant. “It is important for everyone to have a seat at the table and have their voices heard. Our makeup here at Robins is very diverse and everyone should have equitable opportunities for advancement.”