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Western’s Chávez to Serve on Federal Committee

Committee member, Chavez

Addressing Diversity Issues

A federal agency has tapped a Western Colorado University leader to sit on a committee addressing diversity issues.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has selected Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success to be a part of the new Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Advisory Committee. NREL is under the U.S. Department of Energy.

The advisory committee will provide insight and guidance to the American-Made Solar Prize program, one of the government agency’s American-Made Challenges. The American-Made Challenges program offers financial prizes in various technology areas to spur manufacturing, develop innovative ideas and create new domestic job opportunities.

The Solar Prize

The Solar Prize is a multi-million-dollar competition designed to energize U.S. solar innovation. Rounds 1-4 focused on solar manufacturing and hardware components. Round 5 is structured with two tracks that focus on hardware and software components separately. The structure of this round allows more entrepreneurs to compete in the solar innovation space.

The JEDI Advisory Committee was formed as a way to reach new communities and bring more diverse applicants to the program.

Although Chàvez serves in a critical role in Western’s administration, he has worked at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Chávez has an extensive academic and research background in community-based climate-action planning, material-flow analysis (MFA) and life-cycle assessment (LCA). He holds a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado Denver’s Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems and an MBA from the University of Houston. Chávez has also held management positions in several major companies.

Sharing Lived and Learned Experiences

“It is an honor to be invited to join this select group of thinkers and leaders. The members of the JEDI Advisory Committee have a long history of creating real systems for the betterment of all,” said Chávez. “I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and personally look forward to sharing my lived and learned experiences to help create a remarkable Round Five of the Solar Prize.”

Among the qualities sought in committee members is a passion for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion; access to a network of innovators in solar solutions; and a willingness to share content, make connections and promote the opportunities available through the Solar Prize.

NREL’s Network Innovation Manager Kimberlee Ott said Chávez checked all the boxes when it came to the committee’s qualifications.

Impacting the Solar Prize Program

“We were blown away by the high caliber of diversity expertise we saw in the advisory committee applicants,” says Ott. “The eight members selected for this role have shown immense leadership in this space and we can’t wait to see how they impact the Solar Prize program.”

The committee will focus on one-on-one outreach to entrepreneurs, facilitate introductions and networking, and promote the Solar Prize through various outlets. Committee members will also advise the prize team on best practices and resources to increase diversity in the program.

Round 5 of the Solar Prize, underway now, consists of three sequential contests. The “Ready!” Contest focuses on innovative ideas; “Set!” seeks progress in development; and “Go!” looks to prove solar solutions. Round 5 launched June 10 and will award prizes through December 2021.

Learn more about the Solar Prize Round 5.



Author Credit: Chris Rourke

Photo Credit: Katie Lyons

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