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Women Making History: Samantha Howard ‘22 and Sharon Pinder ‘01 Champion Diversity and Inclusion in Their Communities

Samantha Howard '22

This Women’s History Month, meet two remarkable UMGC alumnae who are making the mark on their communities by spearheading efforts to be more inclusive and diverse.

Samantha Howard ‘22
Latino Affairs Liaison
Prince George’s County Government 
Office of the County Executive, Office of Multicultural Affairs

What led you to UMGC to pursue your degree?

As a non-traditional, first-generation student, I started my educational journey later in life, enrolling at Prince George’s Community College in my late twenties. In 2011, upon completing my final community college course, I discovered UMGC through the Prince George’s Community College UMGC Alliance Program. Although it took me an additional 11 years to earn my bachelor’s degree, I remained steadfast in my determination. 

As the saying goes, "nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena" (it's never too late if your luck is good), and I held onto this mantra as I pursued my studies. My perseverance and unwavering dedication are a testament to the idea that with persistence and resilience, any goal can be achieved, regardless of the challenges faced along the way.

What do you do in your current role?

I serve as a crucial link between the government and the vibrant Latino community of Prince George's County. As the designated liaison, I am entrusted with the responsibility of representing the County Executive in all interactions with Latino residents, organizations and stakeholders.

Every day, I engage in a diverse array of tasks, each aimed at fostering understanding, collaboration and empowerment within the Latino community. Whether it's attending community events, meeting with local leaders or advocating for policy initiatives, I am dedicated to ensuring that the voices and needs of the Latino population are heard and prioritized within the County Executive's agenda.

In essence, my role is more than just a job—it's a calling to serve as a bridge between cultures, a champion for equity and a catalyst for positive change. 

What DEI trends have you noticed recently, and how do they impact your role?

Two trends that I've noticed recently are intersectionality and holistic inclusion. It's important to acknowledge that Latinos are not a monolithic group and that individuals may have multiple marginalized identities based on race, gender, sexuality, disability and socio-economic status. My role involves advocating for policies and initiatives that consider these intersections and address the specific needs of marginalized subgroups within the Latino community. 

Holistic inclusion, on the other hand, moves beyond mere representation and tokenism and is essential in fostering a culture of genuine belonging for all residents, including Latinos, in Prince George's County. [This is accomplished] by working to create inclusive environments where all individuals feel valued, respected, and included. By championing holistic inclusion, we contribute to building a community where every individual, regardless of background or identity, can thrive and contribute to Prince George's County success.

What advice would you have for someone hoping to break into a career in DEI?

For someone looking to break into this type of work, I would offer the following advice:

  1. Cultivate cultural competency: Take the time to deeply understand the culture, values, traditions, and concerns of the community you'll be working with. 
  2. Develop strong communication skills: Effective communication is essential in this role, both in conveying the priorities and initiatives of the government to the community and in articulating the community's needs and perspectives to government officials. 
  3. Build relationships: Invest time and effort in building authentic relationships with community members, leaders, organizations and stakeholders. 
  4. Stay informed and engaged: Stay abreast of current events, policies and issues relevant to the community you serve. 
  5. Be flexible and adaptive: Recognize that the needs and priorities of the community may evolve over time and be prepared to adapt your approach accordingly. 
  6. Practice self-care: Engaging in this work can be emotionally demanding and challenging at times. Prioritize self-care and seek support when needed to maintain your well-being and resilience. 

What is the most fulfilling part of your work?

It’s undoubtedly the direct impact I have on the lives of residents. Serving as a crucial link between the county government and the Latino community allows me to advocate for policies and initiatives that address their unique needs and challenges.  

 Additionally, being a role model in my community and embodying representation of Latinos in leadership roles is both an honor and a responsibility that I hold dear. Through my actions and achievements, I hope to serve as a beacon of hope and possibility, encouraging others to embrace their heritage, embrace their potential, and pursue their aspirations with confidence and determination.

Sharon Pinder '01

Sharon R. Pinder ‘01
President and CEO
Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council 
Operator- Virginia MBDA Business Center 

You discovered UMGC’s Executive Masters program in Technology Management after a chance encounter. How has this program impacted your career?

Embarking on the Executive Master’s program proved to be a transformative experience, enriching me both personally and professionally. Among the distinguished faculty, Dr. John Aje stood out as a particularly influential mentor, guiding me with his wisdom and expertise. His mentorship has left an indelible mark on my career trajectory. He remains my mentor today.

Can you explain what you do in your current role?

I serve as the President and CEO of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council, a pivotal organization within the realm of minority business advocacy and empowerment. I oversee operations and strategic initiatives aimed at fostering economic opportunities for certified minority-owned businesses. I am also the Operator of the Virginia MBDA Business Center.  

[At the Countil,] our mission revolves around certifying, advocating for and connecting minority-owned businesses with corporate members, thereby facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships and driving economic growth in our region. Through collaborative efforts and innovative programs, we strive to create a level playing field where minority entrepreneurs can thrive and contribute meaningfully to the broader business landscape.  

What advice would you have for someone hoping to break into the DEI field? 

My advice boils down to this: Let passion be your compass. Embrace the challenges, seize the opportunities, and always remain steadfast in your dedication to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. It is a journey fueled by purpose, and the impact you make along the way will be immeasurable.

What DEI trends have you noticed recently, and how do they impact your role?

In recent times, several notable DEI trends have emerged, each exerting a significant impact on my role as a leader in this space.

  1. Heightened awareness and activism: As a DEI leader, I have observed increased demands for action and accountability, both internally within organizations and externally from stakeholders and communities.
  2. Organizational commitment to DEI: In response to the social justice movements ignited by George Floyd's death, many organizations have made public commitments to advancing DEI initiatives.

  3. Collaborative partnerships and advocacy: There has been a growing emphasis on collaborative partnerships and advocacy efforts to drive systemic change. DEI leaders are increasingly working across sectors, forging alliances with community organizations, government agencies, and advocacy groups to advance shared goals of equity and justice. 

What is the most fulfilling part of your work?

The most fulfilling aspect of my work as the President and CEO of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council lies in our profound impact on the lives and livelihoods of minority and women-owned businesses. 

What truly resonates with me is the opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change, empowering these businesses to thrive and prosper. By providing them with access to resources, opportunities, and support networks, we are not just facilitating economic growth; we are paving the way for intergenerational wealth creation.

Ultimately, it's about making a meaningful difference in the lives of others, empowering individuals and communities to reach their fullest potential. 

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