February 28, 2022
SWAAAE celebrates Black History by recognizing the notable black trailblazers and our current family members who identify as African American or of African descent. Our diversity is and will continue to be our strength!
A COFFEE BREAK CONVERSATION WITH BLACK PIONEERS AND LEADERS OF THE FAA
“…we need to continue to have honest and open conversations of where we have made progress…"
- Charlotte Jones, Lead Certification Inspector
“I learned to always look for and pursue opportunities…"
- Arlene Draper, Planning and Programming Branch Manager
CELEBRATING THE PROFILES OF BLACK CHANGE MAKERS
Shannetta Griffin, P.E.
Associate Administrator for Airports
Shannetta R. Griffin, P.E., was appointed Associate Administrator of Airports for the Federal Aviation Administration on June 7, 2021, by U.S. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Griffin has more than 35 years of experience as a professional engineer and small business advocate within the private and public sectors of the transportation industry with an emphasis on aviation. She is a leader with expertise in operational performance, project engineering and client relationship management.
Manager, Airports Division
Mark graduated from Michigan State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. He began his professional career as a Structural Engineer for Albert Kahn Associates in Detroit, Michigan. He started his career in the FAA in 1991 as a Program Manager for the Chicago Airports District Office (ADO). Subsequently, he served in the Great Lakes region as Assistant Manager for the Chicago ADO and later the Manager of the Airports Planning & Programming Branch. Mark was selected as Manager of the Airports Division, Western Pacific Region, on August 25, 2003. He has found this to be his most professionally fulfilling job in the FAA. Mark enjoys reading, sports and traveling.
Manager Airports District Office
Cathryn joined the Western Pacific Region as the Manager for the Airports District Office in November 2020. In this position, she works with a knowledgeable technical staff overseeing the Airport Improvement Program and the Passenger Facility Program. Prior to taking this position, Cathryn worked as a compliance specialist in the Office of Airports in Washington, D.C. During that time she had temporary assignments to the San Francisco Airports District as the Acting Assistant Manager, Southern Region as a Special Assistant, and the Los Angeles Airports District Office as the Acting Manager. Cathryn also worked in the Office of the Chief Counsel as an enforcement attorney in Washington D.C. and Oklahoma City. Her love of aviation began while working as a flight attendant.
A REFLECTION FROM HARRY BARRETT JR., PSP INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and SWAAAE DEI CHAIR
What does being a black executive in the airport management industry mean to you in the context of Black History?
My good friend and DEI Committee member Sean Moran asked this question when he realized that we’d been only interviewing FAA leaders for this post.
Well – the honest answer is that sometimes, I feel like an enigma. As a black executive in this country (generally speaking) I am a rarity….period. To put a cherry on that, I’m a black executive who runs an airport. When I tell people what I do professionally…heads explode! Some people would call me a unicorn. When I was younger, I didn’t see many people who looked like me in C-suite positions. I cannot express strongly enough how limiting that can be for a young man or woman of any background to look around and not see their future reflected back at them in their colleagues and peers. I speak from experience.
So in my own life, I worked as hard as I could to be that role model for other young black leaders. I studied for eight years and earned two grad degrees (Master of Public Administration and MBA in Global Business) while working full-time just to look appealing enough on paper. I became the youngest (at the time) military Flight Examiner to oversee Pacific Air Forces Airborne Command and Control crew certification out of Japan. In one of my early airport roles, I attached myself at the hip to the Duty Managers every day just so I could learn through osmosis and empirical study; I was so obnoxious that one of them sent me to the corner - literally. It was truly a Mean Girls “You can’t sit with us!” moment.
But now…finally having cracked the code to professional advancement, the POWER of my representation in this industry doesn’t escape me – and I’m certainly humbled by it. At least once a week I get questions from young professionals of all backgrounds who want to know “how did you do it”? I spend a lot of time making sure our industry understands the value that diversity can bring. I have been a STEM learning advocate and mentor, and I partner with schools to help develop aviation learning programs for disadvantaged youth. I speak whenever I can about both the barriers and the opportunities that my Blackness had afforded me in this industry. I’ve always been taught to reach down and help lift others up – and there are a lot of black youth who are craving the chance to excel where I fell short.I chose to strike the word “month” from Black History Month in the title to this publication because I live my heritage 365 days a year. I’m not advocating that my Blackness is any more important than Asian history, Arab heritage or the White experience – each of us lives in our truth. But it amazes me that I am here today, in THIS industry…in an EXECUTIVE position – because if history is any indication, I should not be.