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Four West Virginians Who Will Inspire You To Do Great Things

MarilynJohnson-at-NCNW.jpg
Jean Snedegar
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Marilyn Johnson, a native of Kanawha County, also serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women in Washington, D.C.

Our newsroom recently teamed up with the producers of Inspiring West Virginians for a special episode of Inside Appalachia. The show features Mountain State natives who are leaders in business or a STEM field. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. 

But for generations, men have dominated the the math and science fields. Still, more and more women are starting to enter math and science professions.

So on Inside Appalachia this week, we'll hear from 28-year-old Senia Smoot Reinert, a West Virginia native whose journey in a STEM field is just beginning.  She's a Ph.D. engineering student at Dayton University in Ohio.

In 2011, Reinert was awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation to pursue her graduate research in biomechanics. Her research has brought her to help occupational therapists who are developing therapies for people with autism.

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Credit Jean Snedegar
Keren Brown Wilson.

We'll also hear from three other Mountain State natives who are leaders in science and business:

  • Keren Brown Wilson, an entrepreneur and world pioneer of the assisted living movement. After becoming a professor of gerontology at Portland State University, she opened the first assisted living facility in Portland, then developed assisted living facilities throughout the United States.
  • Brian Anderson, an expert in geothermal energy and gas hydrates, a champion of sustainable energy, and a tireless advocate for making West Virginia’s fossil energy resources – coal, oil and gas – both productive and environmentally sustainable.
  • Marilyn Johnson, a woman who went from cheerleading captain and beauty queen to CEO. Johnson leads the International Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., an organization of more than 6,000 top women leaders around the world.  A native of Kanawha Valley, Marilyn spent 35 years as an executive for IBM – rising to vice president of market development – making her one of the top African-American women leaders in the IT industry.

These aren’t the kind of stories you’ll likely hear from national media outlets. You might have noticed that the national lens is often quick to focus on the challenges of our region rather than our successes. "But those images don’t define us. It’s our individual, and often inspiring stories, that reveal our identities, I think."- Jessica Lilly, host of Inside Appalachia.

Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org