FOSSI Scholars Shine at AIChE Spring Meeting Roundtable

FOSSI Scholars Carol Akpan and Liyah Wilson share insights at the FOSSI Sponsor Roundtable in New Orleans.
FOSSI Scholars Carol Akpan and Liyah Wilson share insights at the FOSSI Sponsor Roundtable in New Orleans.

FOSSI Scholars Carol Akpan and Liyah Wilson joined program sponsors and prospective supporters for a roundtable discussion at the AIChE Spring Meeting in New Orleans. The conversation was led by proud FOSSI sponsor, FOSSI Advisory Board member, and CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company Bruce Chinn, who asked the young women to share their thoughts about school and the FOSSI scholarship.

FOSSI Scholars Carol and Liyah acknowledge the program’s extensive benefits 

Carol Akpan, a junior chemical engineering major at Prairie View A&M University, commented, “Attending an HBCU has boosted my confidence. I really appreciate being in a place where people look like me, and I feel protected and supported.” In fact, with the help of her academic mentor, she conquered her fear of public speaking and now has an impressive list of engagements under her belt.

She credits FOSSI with providing financial relief and says another important benefit of the program is being paired with a corporate sponsor and mentor, Vander Breland of CP Chemical, who has given her valuable guidance and career advice and helped her expand her professional network by connecting her with leading industry contacts. She expressed appreciation for the program’s networking and development opportunities, including visits to sponsor facilities and plants, virtual sessions on mental health and financial literacy, and sponsor-led panels on industry-related topics. “A highlight was FOSSI’s campus visit to PVAMU last fall when I got to meet a lot of FOSSI sponsors and fellow PVAMU FOSSI Scholars.”

Liyah Wilson, a junior chemical engineering major at North Carolina A&T State University, says she also values the sense of belonging and community that comes with attending an HBCU, noting, “I am excited to attend a school where Black excellence is celebrated every day.” Like Akpan, she is grateful for her FOSSI mentor, AdvanSix’s Brittany Cannady, “a successful African American woman who is a ChemE like me and a powerful role model and source of support. She cares about my success and my well-being and even sent me vitamins during exam time!”

Wilson and Akpan actively encourage their peers and younger students not to be intimidated by chemical engineering and expressed the hope that more women should give it a try, agreeing that “ChemE’s can enter just about any career sector.” 

Sponsors join the conversation

All FOSSI Scholars have access to opportunities offered by other sponsor companies, and last spring, when Eastman invited FOSSI Scholars to NCA&T for a tour of their nearby plant in Martinsville, Wilson eagerly signed up. The experience led to a summer internship at Eastman and many new industry connections and friends.

Sponsors also joined in the conversation, with David Anderson (Solvay) contributing, “We are learning from FOSSI Scholars as much as they are learning from us.” Pat Rossman (BASF) added that BASF’s focus is “building strong relationships with scholars and creating opportunities to attract them to the industry.” Taesia Shello (Dow) advised sponsors to “actively engage with scholars but also give them space to thrive and grow.” 

“Sponsors need to bring awareness to the industry and be intentional in addressing the low number of minorities," said Garry Bryan. Kyle Pierce (LYB) had the last word noting, “Collectively, we have not been good marketers of our industry and we want to change that through FOSSI.”

See below for more photos from the FOSSI Roundtable at the 2024 AIChE Spring Meeting. 

We invite companies not currently supporting FOSSI to build their pipeline of outstanding and diverse talent by supporting a FOSSI Scholar. Learn more.