DMIC Members

Meet the Chairs of the Diversity & Member Inclusion Committee


Uma Sankar Vempati, Chair
Water/Wastewater Practice Builder, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included in AWWA?
I strongly believe that “inclusion” is the activity and “diversity” is the result. Without “inclusion”, we cannot achieve, value, and celebrate “diversity”. We must perform right activities to obtain the result that we want. So, over the years, I have learned to focus on two activities in anticipation of “diversity” results that I envision. First, if I find a new member or someone that is not engaged and/or involved in AWWA, I find various open opportunities for them and ask them to come along with me to the meetings. Second, I challenge and give power to the new/young members to contribute towards major decision-making. By showing the members that I (we) truly trust and respect their opinions will certainly jumpstart their involvement in AWWA and our water community. A fresh pair of eyes or an opinion might even open our eyes to better ideas, too!

Warner Palermo, Vice-Chair
Principal, Integrated Global Solutions, LLC

Why did you volunteer for AWWA’s DMIC?  It is a natural fit because of my heritage and country of origin. It was also the vision of an AWWA Past President Brenda Lennox, when we were both Vice Presidents. 

In a conversation during an EC meeting, she felt the need to expand the geographic reach of the DMIC and mentioned to me. That conversation opened my eyes to the committee and the space available to have a platform to advance D&I within AWWA and the chance to become the first Hispanic and Spanish speaking (first language) member of the DMIC.


AWWA Diversity & Inclusion Committee Members

Kavitha Ambikadevi
Engineer, NC DEQ

What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included in AWWA? 
Not having access to clean water and proper sanitation threatens life, destroys opportunity and undermines human dignity. 

Diverse population in water industry leads to maintaining resource equity across cultures and geographical borders. Even though, I knew I wanted to dedicate my professional life to help abate environmental pollution, choosing water was not a pre-calculated move. 

However, now I can’t think of anything else to do for a living than working in, with and for water.  Getting excited every time you stumble upon a manhole, valve-vault or a bio retention pond is just a bonus!

Ari Carlin Copeland
Operations Specialist, Black & Veatch

What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included in AWWA? 
I am actively taking part in the DMIC to represent various volunteer experiences, creating content that shows diversity within the water industry such as youth education and the importance of Allyship. 

Assisting with education and best practices for inclusion to our sections and volunteers to aid in their growth and understanding of what inclusion  means. These resources provide a means for people to both be educated and feel accepted. 

Lastly, being visible as a transgendered, queer person to help others know they are welcome and celebrated in the water industry and at AWWA.  You can be who you are and still be a part of a great industry and be welcome on AWWA committees and sections as your whole self.

Donnell Duncan
Assoc. VP, Arcadis

Why did you volunteer for AWWA’s DMIC?  
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues are personal to me and the DMIC has been integral to our industry's approach to addressing them. 

While serving as the Diversity Committee Chair of the Georgia Section of AWWA I tapped into the resources provided by the DMIC to provide a framework for our operations. 

Hence, once I rolled off the local committee I jumped at the opportunity to serve on a national level and do the same for others. One thing I have learned through my experience in this area is that these types of issues never just work themselves out. It takes people like me putting in the work to move the needle and leave a lasting, positive impact. 

Stephanie Elliott
Project Manager & Client Svc Manager, Stantec Engineering

What’s the best reason to work in water? 
The best reason to work in water is two-fold. First, it is the knowing that you are making a difference in people’s lives by continuing to provide them with clean water and sanitation. It is one of the only industry where everyone is working together to provide a basic need to others. Second, it is the people that make working in water the best. It truly is a community and once you meet a fellow water professional you have a colleague, friend for life.   

Brianna Huber
Executive Director at Her2O™ and Chemist at City of East Moline

What’s the best reason to work in water? 
I’m sure many would say the best reason to work in water is that you know you are providing a truly valued service or that life cannot exist without water. 

Both legit reasons, but for me, the best reason to work in water is that I work alongside people who are unlike myself. I am familiar with being the odd ball out, as it seems I have been in that position my entire life. 

And career-wise the water industry fits that bill for me. Working alongside people who are unlike myself gives me the greatest opportunity to both grow as a professional and leave my mark.

Kyla Jacobsen 
Retired Utility Director, City of Elgin, IL

How did you get involved in the water industry? 
I was a recent graduate with a degree in Chemistry.  I was looking for a job.  The City of Elgin had posted a position for a chemist.  (I had no idea what they needed a chemist for, I was thinking it was some type of forensics in the Police Dept.)  So, I applied.  I found out it was a chemist in the Water Department Laboratory.  I had no idea that was a thing.  I applied.

Many jobs I was seeing out there were for chemists in the paints and coatings industry - water was so much more innocuous.  I was thrilled when I got the job.  It was such an exciting field to be using my skills.

I "dove" right in to water.  I got involved with the AWWA right away.  I volunteered for many section committees.  I LOVED my job.  I wanted to share the good news of water with the world.  I eventually became the Chief Chemist (basically the regulatory compliance guru).  I went back to college to get a Master's degree in Engineering and I eventually became the Utility Director and the rest is history.  

TeresaKondaTeresa Konda
Project Manager, HDR 

How did you get involved in the water industry?
I come from a long line of engineers and knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue a career in science. As I was choosing my area of focus, I was drawn to the water industry given how precious of a resource water is. In the water industry we can make a difference for future generations and help increase access to clean, drinking water.  


Jenn Minton
Associate, Carollo Engineers

How did you get involved in the water industry?  
I come from a long line of engineers and knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue a career in science. As I was choosing my area of focus, I was drawn to the water industry given how precious of a resource water is. In the water industry we can make a difference for future generations and help increase access to clean, drinking water.   

SapnaMulkiSapna Mulki
Principal at Water Savvy Solutions

Why did you volunteer for AWWA’s DMIC?   
I have found a home in the water industry and I have great respect for our water warriors. We have so much to offer our communities including clean drinking water! 

I want us to continue staying relevant in an ever-changing society and the only way we can do that is to truly recognize and embrace the diversity that is all around us. Water is the issue of the future and when the world turns to look at us I want them to see an inclusive community that they could see themselves belonging to.   

ClareOranugoClare Oranugo
Engineer-in-Training, WSP Canada 

Why did you volunteer for AWWA’s DMIC?
Every person who belongs or associates with AWWA is an essential part of the Association. 

The only way we can achieve a common goal is when everyone knows and feel that they are welcomed and can contribute to the association.  I would like to be part of the Committee that will lead the way to AWWA becoming a more diverse and inclusive Association.

We cannot deny the fact that our society is a much more diverse place today and talented people are no longer as homogeneous as they were in the past.  Therefore, there are more and more talented people today of many different background, race, gender, religion, culture, sexuality, etc. Creating a conducive environment in AWWA where these talented people would want to be a part of, is a process I would love to participate in.

Roderick Sherman
Senior Superintendent, Kentucky American Water

Why did you volunteer for the DMIC? 
I absolutely love the water industry. I was introduced to it over 5 years ago by a Navy Vet who said I should look into the field. Since then, I haven’t looked back. When I reflect on my introduction to my profession, I immediately recognized that it was through referral, which brought me into the industry I am so passionate about. 

I joined DMIC to introduce as many people as possible, over a broad spectrum, to the industry. There are so many people who don’t realize this industry is their calling, simply because they were not introduced to it. DMIC gives me a platform to help ensure companies understand the importance of recruiting the best talent possible and to seek candidates from untraditional talent pools. Thus creating the finest water professionals who will create the most innovative ways to best serve their communities. 

Michelle Stockness
Senior Civil Engineer, Barr Engineering Co.

Why did you volunteer for AWWA’s DMIC?  
I think this is some of the most important work that we can do for AWWA now.

Todd Swingle
Executive Director, Toho Water Authority




AWWA Staff Members of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Susan Franceschi

Nancy Sullivan

Mary Svoboda