MEP Emeritus Staff

Marion Williamson Blalock | Inaugural MEP Director

A Living Legacy

Ms. Marion Williamson Blalock, a national leader who devoted over 30 years of her life to recruiting, retaining, and graduating underrepresented (URM) students in the College of Engineering officially retired, in August of 2008. Marion held the position of the Director of the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) from 1974 through 2008. Her contributions to Purdue's College of Engineering span three decades and have had a monumental impact on national and local educational programs. She transformed MEP into a national model that has been replicated at major universities throughout the nation. Marion has mentored thousands of minority students here at Purdue, and across the country, and has helped over 2,300 URMs graduate with their engineering degrees. Many of her students have gone on to stellar careers in engineering, education, and business. 

She was and is still regarded as instrumental for student success. As a mentor, mother, confidant, businesswoman, and rebuker, Marion invested her life and strength in the students that she served without reservation.

Marion is an alumna of Purdue University, earning her BS in Sociology, and MS in Counseling and Personnel Services. Prior to her appointment as the Director of MEP, she served as the Assistant Dean of Students at Purdue.

Dr. Darryl Dickerson | Former Associate Director

Darryl Dickerson, Ph.D., began working full-time for MEP in 2012. In 2014, he became the Associate Director of MEP with a priority on research focused on diversity programming geared towards increasing the number of underrepresented minorities matriculating in engineering. Darryl also serves as Chief Scientific Officer of BioRegeneration Technologies, and President of Adapt-IF Technologies. He has extensive research experience in biomaterials development, orthopaedic tissue biomechanics, and tissue engineering. Darryl graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, with a B.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering. He continued his education at the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University, receiving his Ph.D. in May of 2009.

Research for his doctoral dissertation, "Bio-template Mediated Regeneration of Orthopaedic Interfaces," was carried out in the Human Injury and Regenerative Research Technologies laboratory under the direction of Dr. Eric Nauman. Subsequently, he and Eric founded BioRegeneration Technologies to translate the benchtop work performed during his graduate studies to clinical practice.

During his time as a graduate student, Darryl gained significant management experience as a member of the Board of Directors (2004 - 2009) of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a nonprofit organization with over 30,000 members worldwide dedicated to increasing the number of African American students pursuing and obtaining engineering degrees. His work with NSBE culminated in his service as President, Chairman of the Board, and Chief Executive Officer in 2007 - 2008. During his tenure, he honed his management and leadership skills overseeing a full-time staff of 30 at the World Headquarters in Alexandria, VA, where he managed a budget of $11 million, implemented a new programmatically-based strategic direction, and forged new partnerships with corporations including Battelle and Microsoft. In 2011, he became President of Adapt-IF Technologies, a non-profit organization founded by Theresa Gordon and Eric Nauman dedicated to creating and delivering custom adaptive technologies to meet the individual needs of people with disabilities. 

Michele Lezama | Former Graduate and Organizational Diversity Strategist

Michele Lezama, M.S. and MBA, was the Graduate and Organizational Diversity Strategist for Purdue University's Minority Engineering Program (MEP). In this role, she was responsible for recruiting domestic underrepresented graduate students for Purdue's College of Engineering as well as enhancing Purdue's relationships with national organizations focused on diversity in STEM.

Michele was the CEO and Executive Director of The National GEM Consortium prior to her role with MEP. GEM, a 501(c)(3) organization is dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented individuals who pursue and receive a masters or Ph.D. in engineering or science by providing full fellowships. Michele is credited for creating a national program called GRAD Lab (Getting Ready for Advanced Degree Laboratory), leveraging GEM's national network of university partners, to provide students with critical information on the STEM graduate application process and national funding opportunities. During her tenure at GEM, Michele was an employee of Notre Dame, Educational Testing Service, and ultimately positioned GEM as a stand-alone organization where she reported solely to the GEM Board of Directors. 

Prior to GEM, Michele served as Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a 501(c)(3) student run organization. She is credited for turning around the organization's financial position from risking payroll to acquiring a new headquarters facility tripling the organizations capital position and creating a long-term investment structure. Under her leadership, NSBE received the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (awarded by the White House's Office of Science and Technology).

Prior to NSBE, Michele was the Director of Satellite Scrambling Operations at Home Box Office (HBO), a Time Warner Company, and prior to HBO she served as the Associate Director of Broadcast Operations and System Integration at Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Prior to her media career, Michele was an engineer with IBM in their Poughkeepsie, Manhattan, and Brooklyn facilities. 

Michele earned her B.S. in Industrial Engineering at Northwestern University, and both her M.S. and MBA in Finance and Accounting from Columbia University. She was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, Alpha Pi Mu, and is an alumnus of Robert Toigo Financial Services and The National GEM Consortium fellowship programs. 

A native New Yorker, Brooklyn by way of The Bronx, Michele's straight forwardness and dry wit would make the city proud. She is married to Ricardo Lezama. They have two daughters. 

Allene Manning 

In Loving Memory 

Allene Manning was the Associate Director of Student Services and Development within the Purdue MBA and Master's Programs Team from 2013-2016. During her tenure, she was responsible for onboarding and orientation (K Launch), the Mentoring Program with Christine Jackson, the Board Fellows Program, KGSA and associated clubs advising, Graduate Assistant (GA) Programming in conjunction with Logan Jordan and Shelley Corbin, and the Committee for MGMT 390 and LGL activities. 

Prior to that, she was the Assistant Director of the Minority Engineering Program for 7 years at Purdue University. As the Assistant Director of MEP, Allene was tasked with condensing a full semester of work into a non-credit bearing five-week simulation of the first semester engineering experience at Purdue. This foundation in creating the Engineering Academic Boot Camp content has helped to eliminate performance and retention gaps for underrepresented minorities in engineering. 

Allene, a Boilermaker legacy, received both her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue.

Dr. Cinthia Sanchez | Former Outreach and Retention Administrator

Cinthia Sanchez, Ph.D., began working full-time for the Minority Engineering Program as the Outreach and Retention Administrator after earning her Ph.D. degree in Biological Sciences from Purdue University in 2014, where she was responsible for designing, implementing and coordinating outreach and retention programming specifically targeted to underrepresented minority pre-college and undergraduate students, parents, and educators. She was also responsible for developing intervention strategies for academic improvement and success.

Cinthia has extensive research experience in the areas of molecular virology and cell biology. Her doctorate thesis project, "Genetic variations of dengue virus and its role in viral replication and infectivity," has been presented at various national conferences.

During her tenure at Purdue, she also worked as the Lead Coordinator for the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) where she developed, coordinated and engaged in activities that focused on outreach, recruitment, and retention of pre-college and undergraduate underrepresented students. She also successfully built partnerships with internal faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as other academic institutions nationwide and played an instrumental role in doubling the number of applicants to over 1,000 students by co-creating marketing strategy, forming partnerships with and visiting other institutions, and representing the program at conferences.

Cinthia also has more than six years of teaching experience at Purdue University, teaching courses such as Lab View, Exploration of Protein Structure and Macromolecules, and Anatomy and Physiology. She also served and continues to mentor underrepresented students from Purdue University and Puerto Rico. 

Cinthia was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She received her B.S. degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico-Aguadilla.

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