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NEWS | June 3, 2021

NSWC Dahlgren Division Equal Employment Opportunity Office Hosts AAPI Perspectives Discussion Panel

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Misty Copeland once said, “Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” In culmination of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) hosted a virtual panel featuring NSWCDD High Power Joint Electromagnetic Non-Kinetic Strike Deputy Project Lead for High Power Microwave Effects in the Modeling and Simulation and Controls Branch Maria Hutt Clark, Laser Weapon Systems Applied Engineering Branch engineer Samantha Camacho Pascual and NSWCDD Aegis Combat Systems Engineering and Integration (Program of Record) Branch Head Alex Salunga.

During the discussion, all three panelists acknowledged NSWCDD leadership for their support and focus on encouraging diversity and inclusion. In addition to an AAPI special emphasis program manager in the EEO Office, the Gun and Electric Weapon Systems Department has its own AAPI Inclusion Committee. Hutt, the committee’s chair, highlighted how vital AAPI representation across each department and within the EEO Office has helped bring light to issues and their solutions.

When asked how NSWCDD leadership and peers can help AAPI employees feel more included and integrated in the workforce, Pascual drew from her own experience, emphasizing the importance of learning our unintentional biases and actively dealing with them.

Understanding and dealing with unconscious predispositions takes a conscious effort and it is a two-way street. Whether inclusion and diversity starts at the top and works its way down or vice versa, the panel all agreed that a “lead by example” approach creates an atmosphere of trust and good mission execution. 

During the discussion, panelists drew attention to the importance of diversity and inclusion throughout the command (not just limited to those with AAPI heritage). According to Salunga, “diversity is about diversity across the board,” whether it is heritage, gender or education level. He also suggested a “practice what you preach” approach on diversity, encouraging mentorship to expand one’s mindset.

While the push for diversity and inclusion is creating an improvement for the AAPI community, the panelists acknowledged there is still a long way to go. According to research released by reporting forum “Stop AAPI Hate,” nearly 3,800 hate incidents were reported between March 2020 and February 2021.

Support for those with AAPI heritage is governmentwide, with the Federal Asian Pacific American Council promoting equal opportunity and cultural diversity for AAPI within the Federal and D.C. governments and the Asian American Government Executives Network promoting AAPI leadership in government.