By Gary Ell
Two Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division employees – Colleen Westenberger and Alaina Farooq – were recently awarded Department of Navy (DoN) Civilian Service Achievement Medals (CSAM) for participating on the Naval Sea Systems Command Inclusion & Engagement (I&E) Council.
The CSAM is the fifth highest honorary award in the DoN. It is awarded to DoN civilians who, while serving in a capacity within the Navy or Marine Corps, are recognized for sustained performance or specific achievement of a superlative nature at the equivalent level of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal awarded to military personnel.
Westenberger and Farooq were dedicated to developing ways to increase employee engagement within NAVSEA and to make it a more inclusive place to work.
“I am honored to receive the Department of Navy Civilian Service Achievement Medal. My NAVSEA inclusion and engagement council diversity teammates and I were intentional about creating an initiative / platform that stands on the four pillars of connection, development, advancement, and representation. By getting an award for my initiative it means that NAVSEA is investing in the development and advancement their employees,” Farooq said.
The Inclusion & Engagement Council is a standing body established by NAVSEA leadership to reaffirm the organization’s commitment to build and maintain a workforce that draws from society and encourages connection and collaboration so that the employees’ work is informed by varied viewpoints and they are empowered to participate and contribute to their fullest potential. The council creates initiatives to ensure members of NAVSEA can work at peak performance. It strives to facilitate the removal of social pain of interpersonal rejection or loss, eliminate the concept of insiders and outsiders, and ensure that employee inclusion and engagement in its many forms, is understood, respected, and valued.
As a mechanical engineer and the Ship Controls DDG-51 Class Branch Head, Westenberger served on the council’s Engagement Team that developed a Virtual Resource Center for the NAVSEA Enterprise. The team developed a “one-stop shop” for training and reference materials, a guest speaker series, and an enterprise-wide point-of-contact listing for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPMs), and other groups focused on inclusion, engagement, and diversity.
Westenberger has been working at NSWCPD since 2005 after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Farooq grew up in Indianapolis and earned her Bachelor of Science from Purdue University-West Lafayette and a Master’s of Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. She joined NSWCPD in 2018 and serves as the Contracting Officer Representative (COR) Supervisor for the Cybersecure Hull Mechanical & Electrical Control Systems & Networks Department.
Farooq also joined the council in September 2020. She served on the Diversity Team to help make a difference by ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, respected, and valued. To facilitate an enterprise-wide project to enhance communications and build diversity, the team created a video series called NAVSpEAks that connects employees with opportunities, programs, and resources for leadership development and career advancement. By highlighting diverse voices and perspectives, NAVSpEAks educates and empowers future leaders who will represent the community they serve.
Both Westenberger and Farooq believe that their projects have enhanced a more inclusive, engaged, and diversified environment. For example, Farooq notes that the Diversity Team’s initiative NAVSpEAks platform includes five-minute videos that educate the workforce on various topics.
“Our initial videos explored mentorship and why it’s important, mentorship relationships, some of the various leadership programs at NAVSEA, and why pronouns are important,” Farooq continued. “The videos hit some ‘golden nuggets’ of each topic. For example in the video “Mentorship Relationships,” we explore the role of a mentor and mentee … as a mentee what is expected of you and how to prepare for a mentorship meeting. These ‘golden nuggets’ may be key to development or advancement that an employee needed, but didn’t know to ask.”