DURHAM, N.C. – Eighteen rising leaders from water and wastewater utilities across the United States have graduated from Duke University’s Water Innovation Leadership Development (WILD) executive education program.

The WILD program introduces mid-career water and wastewater managers to new approaches and resources for dealing with some of the most pressing issues facing the water services sector today, from workforce development and inadequate water infrastructure to climate impacts and equitable access to clean water.

Over the course of the program, WILD Fellows take part in monthly online sessions and two intensive three-day workshops at Duke’s campus in Durham.

Student presents capstone project to seated audience

Water industry experts and leading researchers facilitate the sessions and workshops and provide coaching to Fellows, but there’s also a big emphasis on peer-to-peer learning, said Martin Doyle, professor of river systems science and policy at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who serves as faculty lead on WILD.

“The idea is to help emerging leaders build a network of peers they can brainstorm with and seek advice from, even long after the program ends,” Doyle said.

Thanks to generous support from program funders, tuition, travel, and lodging costs, which otherwise would be valued at about $14,000, are covered for each Fellow.

The 18 new WILD graduates are:

  • Andrea Suárez Abastida, Director of Public Utilities, NMB Water, City of North Miami Beach, Fla.
  • Tim Alston, Process Control Engineer, Gary Sanitary District, Gary, Ind.
  • Cathleen (Cathie) Chavez-Morris, Utility Services Manager, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, San Gabriel, Calif.
  • Suzanne DeLorenzo, Director of Water Quality, San Jose Water Company, San Jose, Calif.
  • David L. Fielder II, Project Manager, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Detroit, Mich.
  • Karla G. Camou Guerra, Water Reclamation Superintendent, City of Glendale, Glendale, Ariz.
  • Brianna Huber, Director of Water Filtration, City of East Moline, East Moline, Ill.
  • Jeanne Jensen, Capital Supervisor for Water, Wastewater, Stormwater, and Reclaimed Water Utilities, Town of Gilbert, Gilbert, Ariz.
  • Wayne Jernberg, Water System Manager, City of Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Tricia Kilgore, Director of Technology and Innovation, Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, Okatie, S.C.
  • Y. Mwende Lefler, Managing Civil Engineer, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Chicago, Ill.
  • Lianette (Lia) Leon, former PWE Business and Asset Manager, City of Baytown, Texas
  • Matt Magruder, Chief Research Officer, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Reina A. Segura, Supervising Engineer, Water & Sewer Department, Trenton Water Works, City of Trenton, N.J.
  • Roderick (RJ) Sherman, Operational Excellence Manager, Kentucky American Water, Lexington, Ky.
  • Satish Tripathi, Managing Engineer, Water Infrastructure Planning, Houston Water, City of Houston, Texas
  • Racquel Vaske, Assistant General Manager, Saint Paul Regional Water Services, Saint Paul, Minn.
  • Ronnie Versher, Jr. Director of Community Benefits, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco, Calif.

All 18 graduates led solo capstone projects during the program that allowed them to put their new leadership skills and knowledge into practice via a current work or professional project or to help advance their career goals.

WILD graduates earn a non-credit-bearing Certificate of Completion from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

For more information, contact Laura.Lipps@duke.edu.