Celebrating WomenWe are storytellers, highlighting local female leaders who have been tirelessly committed to the cause of advancing women, the next generation of emerging female leaders who are inspired to make a difference, and those women who have weathered their own life transitions while moving forward on their leadership path.
What does the member of a Cone Health team who is providing COVID-19 testing on a daily basis do in her spare time? She keeps going by giving back to make her community safe and more equitable. Dejuana Warren-Bigelow is well-regarded as a leader in the black community. She has established Women Empower Women, a not-for-profit that brings together individuals and community partners to provide assistance for women.
In 2017, she partnered with other local people to bring hope to the Morrowtown community in Burlington, an area plagued with violence, drugs and poverty. Morrowtown was the site of several unsolved murders, including Dejuana’s brother.
Dejuana participated in an Elon forum: The Core: Conversations on Race and Equity to address some of our community’s most pressing problems.
More recently, Dejuana was one of the founders of Future Alamance a not-for-profit promoting unity among residents through economic opportunity, educational access, civic engagement and equity while celebrating the rich cultural diversity of all people. She sought the support of the local police department to assist in improving the racial issues and issues of violence. Dejuana communicated effectively and frequently with the police department during the planning of a rally bringing together about 400 people in a safe manner to promote a peaceful and positive impact in our community.
As a current Rising Star Nominee of Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County she was asked when she has recently done that required courage. Her answer: “I’m working at the COVID-19 testing site for ARMC. Everyday I wake up to serve and encourage our community. Being in a pandemic, while working in healthcare requires bravery and a servant’s heart. Being able to support my mother as she faces cancer has also taken courage.”
Dejuana is Leading the Way by setting the bar high not only for Alamance County but for herself as well!
Serving the needs of children and families is at the heart of what Casey Locker does every day as a young attorney in Alamance County. She serves on the executive committee of Alamance County Bar Association and tenaciously fights for the clients she represents. Casey goes above and beyond representing women who have been involved in cycles of poverty, domestic abuse, violence and addiction.
She doesn’t stop with the legal service, as Chair of the board for the Exchange Club Family Center of the Central Piedmont, Casey advocates for their mission to “break the cycle of child abuse and neglect”. The Exchange Club offers programs such as adolescent parenting, support, teen solutions classes, counseling and juvenile mentoring. During the last five years she has been guardian ad litem with a family in Durham county.
As a recent nominee for the Women’s Resource Center’s Rising Star Award, Casey was asked the question: What are you currently doing that excites you? Her answer: “I am representing parents in a court fight for another opportunity to parent their children. Helping them overcome obstacles and what, at times, feels like insurmountable hurdles is one of my biggest driving factors to practice family law.”
One of Casey’s favorite life mantras is: “Today you are enough. You are more than enough.”
A dedicated, loyal professional Casey Locker is Leading the Way for women in Alamance County!
Our very own board member, Edna Parker who serves as the Vice President of Quality at LabCorp, was featured in LabCorp’s newsletter, The Point. Parker is just one example of women leading the way in Alamance County. We are proud of her long history on our board.
The article below is from LabCorp’s The Point which sets out to highlight women’s leadership.
Edna Parker, Vice President, National Office of Quality
Community service has always held a prominent place in Edna Parker’s family life. This past year, North Carolina’s Alamance County Board of Commissioners selected her as a co-winner for Citizen Volunteer of the Year. Edna was nominated for her public service efforts in improving the health, safety and welfare of county citizens. She is an active member of several boards and her community service has included working with numerous non-profit organizations throughout the years. Edna’s compassion for people coupled with her zeal for quality is a driving force for cultivating positive changes throughout her professional and personal endeavors.
What is your current role at LabCorp?
I am responsible for quality management for our Diagnostics segment, which includes quality systems design and implementation, quality system auditing, regulatory strategy, quality operations support, data collection and metrics reporting, response and remediation to internal and external inspections and audits, and inspection readiness and support.
I interact with people across the enterprise (senior leaders, lab managers, customer service, etc.), providing guidance and direction for complying with laboratory regulations, assisting with responses to requests for proposal, overseeing our quality audit program, addressing client concerns related to quality, writing corporate quality policies, and developing innovative ways to help our business partners develop new business opportunities.I serve as a liaison to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for laboratory regulations, work with the American Clinical Laboratory Association to promote LabCorp’s position in legislation and regulations, and review and offer interpretation to laboratory regulatory requirements. From ensuring laboratories meet accreditation requirements and due diligence reviews to training in root cause analysis and cost of quality, there are no limits to the issues and questions to which I respond.
What has your career path been like?
I began my career in hospital laboratories as a medical technologist, senior technologist and chief technologist. I came to work for LabCorp (then Roche Biomedical laboratories) in 1984 as a laboratory manager in the hospital and clinic lab management area known as Lab Concepts. In late 1985, I was promoted to assistant technical director in that same department. In 1990, I served as Regional Manager, Quality Assurance and Safety. Next, as Associate Vice President, I assumed duties as a National QA Manager and Divisional Compliance Manager. Then, as Vice President, National Office of Quality, my role expanded to oversight of quality for the routine clinical laboratories. I assumed my current role in January 2019.
What are some challenges for women in the scientific community?
Women in science may face the challenge of myths. We may not get a chance because of misperceptions. It might be that we are not perceived as being serious about our careers, or that we aren’t in the game for the long haul, or that we don’t have the intellectual or business savvy to advance in scientific roles. All of that is untrue, of course.
I believe that women who strive for excellence can overcome these common myths through perseverance and not allowing the obstacles and negativity to keep us down. Fortunately, LabCorp has some strong women in significant scientific roles who are role models for anyone who may be struggling to become of a part of the scientific community.
Since joining the company, describe an experience you’ve had, or a project/program you’ve worked on that you are proudest of.
While I am proud of my personal contribution to the work and success of LabCorp, I don’t work in a vacuum. Building a great team of quality professionals who are experts at what they do tops the list. My quality team makes my job easier and fun. They are such a close, hard-working, dedicated team. From monthly calls where we share best practices across the company to hosting an annual Quality department conference, the team continually learns from one another. I do my best to instill a commitment to do the best for our patient. I believe our company’s success is built on our people.
I have had many other rewarding experiences throughout my career. One important change that has resulted is how quality is preserved by others. Quality professionals have historically been viewed as the “police”. While there may be policing in what we do, I have worked hard to ensure we have built a strong collaborative relationship with our partners in operations.
What are the leadership qualities you bring?
I bring a solid work ethic, integrity, and a strong commitment to quality, excellence, and open, honest communication. I work hard not to be just a boss or manager but rather a true leader and mentor. I believe in leading by example while partnering with my team, supporting them and using opportunities to teach, train, and develop. I hope my staff see me as an open, honest leader worthy of the title.
What are the qualities you seek in a leader?
Adaptability comes to mind first. LabCorp is a dynamic, global health sciences leader and with that comes constant change. Further, I seek a leader with strong character and vision, with the ability to grow future leaders who value and are guided by the same high standards of ethics and honesty.
Has being a woman shaped your journey in science?
This is difficult to assess because my path is all I know. If it has shaped my journey, most likely it has been a driving force. Throughout my education and professional life, I have been driven to be the very best at completing whatever task lay before me. I have worked to never give anyone a reason to question my ability or dedication to excellence.
Why does having women at the table matter?
I think that question demonstrates a key point. Does anyone ever ask about having men at the table? Not likely.
I think the question is really, ‘Why would women be excluded from the table?’ They should not be excluded based on myths and biases. Obviously, women can have brilliant minds, innovative ideas, as well as life experiences that can help drive success. Also, women are part of the diversity that a business should want represented in decision-making in an effort to survive and thrive – particularly in a global setting.
Just think about the responsibility of women in business who are also wives, moms, sports team coaches, or community volunteers. Many women have learned to multi-task and be successful at each task. The skill set needed to accomplish those tasks can translate into success in the workplace. Who wouldn’t want to have a woman at the table?
It’s important to find a way to get a seat at the table. If you don’t get that invitation, don’t let that stop you. Sometimes people may not know about you; let them know what you can bring to the discussion and ask to be at the table. The worst they can do is say “no” to you.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as you advanced within your career?
At times, it was challenging to be heard. I had to learn how to express myself, to be confident in using my “voice”. There is a balance between being assertive and being overbearing. To that end, one of my mentors told me I needed to become more of a bulldog. I’ll never forget that. Being a bulldog is not me, although I’ve learned to be more forceful on occasion.
What is your advice to the next generation of female leaders?
Work hard, keep your focus and remember why you chose the profession. Know there is nothing our male counterparts can do that you cannot do as a woman – in science or business.
Strong women in my life personally and professionally have helped shaped my professional journey. We each should consider how we can help someone along the way. Find and be a strong mentor. We are unique and have much to offer as women.
LabCorp’s Women in Leadership Profiles
At LabCorp, we recognize that it is only when we create the space for our colleagues’ voices to be heard that innovation can truly happen. We hope that Edna’s voice inspires and encourages LabCorp employees across the enterprise. If you are a woman in leadership at LabCorp and would like to share your story, we want to hear from you. Please reach out to Nancy Marte (Nancy.Marte@covance.com) for more information.
2018 Leading the Way Founders’ Award winner
By Julie Johnson
You might just as well find Lori Seiler scrubbing a toilet as sitting through a board meeting at Alamance Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband own Seiler Services, Inc, a HUD-designated woman-owned janitorial company in Alamance County.
Never afraid of hard work and always interested in the best for her employees, Lori steps right in when someone is sick or has to miss work for other emergencies.
“When we started Seiler Services, we said we wouldn’t treat employees as if they’re replaceable, the way large organizations treat them. We want our employees to know someone cares, and we always do our best to say thank you.”
It’s an approach that’s worked well for Lori, with both the company’s supervisors putting in more than 18 years of service and many employees more than 10. “Employees are a part of our family.”
And families take care of each other.
Taking the Dive
One thing Lori’s learned to appreciate about Alamance County is how folks here do that—treat one another like family. She and her husband moved here to start the business in 1993. With no connections other than her husband’s parents and sister, she joined Newcomers and dove into networking and volunteering.
Soon she was invited to attend a Burlington Junior Women’s Club event, and when she learned about all the club was doing in the community, she signed up for everything. She could barely contain her excitement about the impact they were making.
That was the start for Lori. Now part of the Burlington Women’s Club and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, she’s helped start the Mebane and Greater Alamance chapters, served as president, and won numerous local, state, and national awards.
But her community involvement doesn’t stop there. She’s also active in the Alamance Chamber of Commerce, where in 2016, Lori gained the honor of being its 4th female chairman in a 100-year history. Current chamber president Mac Williams says, “Lori embraced the chamber’s mission, brought energic and enthusiastic support to our programming, and was a strategic thinker about how we could improve and expand our reach. As Board Chair, her theme for that year was, ‘I’m All In!’ That does the best job of describing how Lori approaches all of her commitments.”
She’s also served on the boards of both Alamance Arts and the United Way of Alamance.
Lori believes so strongly in the power of community: “As individuals, we may not make a big impact, but collectively we can.” She emphasizes that community involvement creates change. Visible change.
Recognizing Those Who’ve Come Before
If she could send a message to her younger self today, that’s something Lori would love to say. Community involvement means investing in close relationships, and she’d advise her younger self to start building lasting friendships early in life.
Some of the women who’ve inspired Lori to inspire others include Barbara Massey, whom she met through the Alamance Chamber of Commerce. She says of Massey, “Her commitment to education is amazing,” and she applauds the impact Massey is making through Alamance Achieves.
Also influenced by Lisa Pennington, current Chairman of Alamance Chamber and Past President of Alamance Arts, she says Lisa’s passion for the arts is a great asset to our county, and Lori believes Alamance Arts should get more recognition for supporting artists and art programs in our community.
And though this blog is centered on the achievements of the ladies, Lori couldn’t resist mentioning Bob Byrd as a personal influence. A former candidate for county commissioner, Bob shares Lori’s deep love for the community, and she applauds his continuing commitment to this place she calls home.
Getting Up for Good Reasons
You’ve probably recognized what wakes Lori up in the morning and keeps her going from dawn to dusk: community involvement. People. Relationships. Planting roots in the community and connecting with others are some of her deepest passions.
Beyond that, she’s pushing for health care reform. The limitations in choice and high cost of premiums these days have her contacting legislators to try to get some options on the table for small business owners. Lori—and she believes others like her—would like to offer company employees health care, but the rising costs and limitations in plan options make that very difficult and sometimes impossible.
As she champions this issue, she also looks forward. She hopes to let go of the pressure she puts on herself to meet unrealistic expectations and to accept the things she has no power to change. In the meantime, she’ll keep working hard at making a difference here in the community she loves… one day at a time.
Weekday mornings at 5:30 a.m., drivers of Link Transit’s green and blue buses start their engines for their daily routes. They’ll pick up students, employees, and other residents heading to school, work, the grocery store, or elsewhere.
It hasn’t always been so in Alamance County, and we have April Durr partially to thank. Director of Community Impact at the United Way of Alamance and the WRC 2015 Rising Star Award recipient, April has held an unwavering commitment to the idea that a public transportation system is good for business, health, and opportunity in our community, and her persistent efforts have fueled advocacy for it.
Persistence is in April’s DNA. It’s what convinced Beth Warner, an associate professor of human services studies at Elon University, to nominate April for one of the university’s first Top 10 Under 10 awards in 2011. Warner says, “Believing strongly in the power of citizens joining together to solve local problems, April never tires of participating on committees and boards, taking part in planning events, working in partnership towards social change….”
Her friends and family understand her motivation. April says they get tired of hearing her say, “If you’re not involved, you can’t voice your opinion.” Still, she emphasizes involvement is the only way to make your voice heard, and “the more people who join in, the better.”
April believes that to her very core, and her life expresses that belief. Her mom, who passed away in 2014, can be credited for the strong influence to live a life of conviction. She didn’t hide the disparities in the world from April, so a young girl grew up learning to “ask questions, push for causes bigger than [herself], and become an advocate.”
Other women who’ve helped shape April include a health café manager who took a chance on hiring a high school student; Brenda Sawyer, the supervisor who hired her at CrossRoads, her first professional position and the entry into her nonprofit career; and Suzan Evans, former executive director at CrossRoads. All have become mentors and friends, challenging April to keep stretching into new roles because “growth happens when you get out of your comfort zone.”
April’s still stretching. She’d come to North Carolina to enroll in Elon University’s human services program and after graduating, decided to put down roots here. Today, although she might caution her younger self to consider graduate studies before diving headlong into career work, April’s satisfied with the road she’s traveled.
Brightening the walls of her office are colorful images of tropical beaches and a Puerto Rican rainforest. The pictures sum up her bent toward shared experience. Preferring to do something with those who mean the most to her rather than receive a gift, April says what’s most important is time and togetherness.
She approaches community efforts the same way, and April’s roots in Alamance County have yielded time with leaders of nonprofits, law enforcement agencies, government departments, health services, and other community partners. The investment gives everyone a chance to work together, and that’s the goal. The problems Alamance County faces, April stresses, “are bigger than one person or one agency.”
She’s perhaps most excited about a united approach to one of our region’s longest running struggles: racism. Alamance Racial Equity Alliance is taking a hard, honest look at racial relations in our community. AREA’s monthly learning caucuses bring together people of color and white residents to have the difficult conversations discussions about race invoke. The training helps participants adjust their perspectives and see the world through a different lens so they may learn to listen and speak up, and not just for themselves.
“Ultimately,” April says, “we envision a community without racism.” Every day she wakes up wondering what she can do to contribute toward a society like that. And every day while repeating her mantra – “If you’re not involved, you can’t voice your opinion” – she holds out hope that more and more community members will join the conversation.
Julie Johnson is a local freelance writer who’s traveled the world but come home to her roots. Her global experience gives her a unique perspective when helping clients communicate in a 21st century marketplace.
“Be an advocate for what’s important. Stretch yourself….” These are words Heidi Norwick would tell her younger self if she had the chance. A past winner of the Founder’s Award and current president of Alamance County’s United Way, Heidi has come into her own as an advocate in this community.
When her children were young and her husband’s company downsized, Heidi took a part-time coordinator position at the budding Women’s Resource Center. Flexible enough she could keep her family a priority, the job eventually became a full-time Executive Director’s position and opened the door to a career of service in Alamance County. Twenty-two years later, Heidi remembers with gratitude, “The Women’s Resource Center was life changing for me….I grew so much.”
She maintains close ties to the center, even now, and is especially excited about the upcoming Herb Festival. She loves that it lets her put her passion for gardening to good use, and she’s become a faithful volunteer, modeling her belief that you ought to “do what you love and share it with others!”
Heidi’s become so good at living that belief that Alamance Chamber President Mac Williams calls her “a thoughtful, caring, and committed leader serving Alamance County with distinction.” Joining the United Way as Director of Community Impact in 2012, she stepped into her current role two years later. Williams points out the “critical human services” Heidi manages, noting her efforts “to improve community conditions around education, health, and employment.”
Heidi attributes much of her personal and professional growth to other influential women. Hesitant to name names, lest she leave someone out, she says she’s drawn on the leadership of Jean Anderson and Linda Barron as well as the founders of the Women’s Resource Center: Becky Mock, “B” Holt, Tennala Gross, and Dr. Martha Smith-Trout. Calling these ladies “pioneers in our field,” Heidi heralds them as women dedicated to the community whose “passion [has been] inspiring.”
She also points to Alamance County’s Susan Osborne, Stacie Saunders, Tracey Grayzer, and Kathy Hykes. They, along with the founders mentioned above and the current United Way staff, are blazing a trail of empowerment Heidi feels privileged to walk.
When asked why she cares so much about Alamance County, she smiles. The community embraced Heidi and her family when they moved here, and she has a strong desire to help others sense that same connection. In fact, she believes we all have a responsibility to work toward that end.
Her role allows her to make connections every day, perhaps the most satisfying aspect of her job. A few weeks back, for example, Heidi watched an inmate hold his 10-month old daughter for the first time when he graduated from a GED program funded with grant money. She participated when Women United presented Leader in Me, a leadership-training initiative for students, with an anonymous gift for expansion into Haw River Elementary School.
Being the vehicle for connecting those who have a passion to do something with those who have the means is part of why Heidi gets up every morning. “I don’t think of it as a job,” she emphasizes, because the rewards of a life devoted to service return to her day after day. She insists she’s gained more than she’s given: “I feel very blessed in this opportunity.”
Heidi sees a glimmering horizon for Alamance County. The United Way’s new location allows more opportunity for support of Burlington’s downtown, and a shifting focus on collective impact for approaching local issues has her believing we’re entering a new season, a time when silos come down and everyone works together for the same goals.
The dream? Alamance County as a home where those who need mental healthcare get access to it, kids involved in youth violence find their way out, and those who feel they don’t have a voice discover it and the community they’re seeking. Heidi’s staking her future on the possibility of this dream becoming a reality, and she hopes you’ll join her in making it happen.
Julie Johnson is a local freelance writer who’s traveled the world but come home to her roots. Her global experience gives her a unique perspective when helping clients communicate in a 21st century marketplace. https://www.johnsonwriter.com/