STEM success story featured at MTU Black History Month presentation

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Dr. Robin Johnson-Cash, who earned a Ph.D. in engineering from Michigan Tech in December 2015 and has worked for Ford Motor Company for nearly 30 years, offers advice to students who will soon enter the workforce.

HOUGHTON — As the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Michigan Technological University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (MEEM), Robin Johnson-Cash was the featured speaker Tuesday at a Black History month presentation hosted by Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Since earning a degree and making history, Johnson-Cash has worked for the past 28-and-a-half years for the Ford Motor Company.

Johnson-Cash is a native of Detroit and a graduate of the Detroit Public Schools. She earned her college degrees at Michigan universities.

When she learned she was the first African-American to graduate from the MEEM program, Johnson-Cash said she was surprised it took so long, in addition to feeling honored by the achievement.

“And to be honest, I had mixed emotions when I learned this fact” she said. “I was excited to go down in Michigan Tech’s history books, and I will forever be a part of their history, but I was I was surprised that it had taken 130 years to happen. It was shocking. But I’m proud to be the first.”

She said throughout her education, there have been highs and lows, but when she reaches 30 years at Ford, she will have two reasons to celebrate. First, she said, is her retirement. But her second reason brings her deeper meaning.

“I have the opportunity to hopefully effect change in the number of minorities, women, under-represented folks that are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). And in fact, to just increase the pipeline of people that decide to go into a STEM field. So, I’m gearing up for my next career, which is (prompting) the next generation to enter into the STEM field.”

Her goal, she said, is to open the minds of students to the idea that they can do anything they imagine and that the possibilities are boundless.

“If anyone wants to connect with me, and especially the students, I’m really encouraging you to connect with me, because I would love to be a sounding board; to help you in any way I can, to help you connect to job opportunities. I have a huge network in Detroit in automotive space. Please leverage me as a personal connection to the automotive sector, if that’s what you’re interested in.”