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Center for Global Resilience and Security Senior Fellows Michelle Klassen Merrigan and Dr. Kahwa Douoguih sit at a table in the Kretizberg Library Todd Multipurpose Room and discuss the value of grit Nov. 14, 2019, at Kreitzberg Library.

Center for Global Resilience and Security’s new senior fellows urge students to build networking into busy schedules

The Center for Global Resilience and Security's two newest senior fellows, Dr. Kahwa Douoguih and Michelle Klassen Merrigan, spent their official introduction last week encouraging students to learn all they can from as many people as they can.

The fellows led a Thursday panel discussion on resilience and grit at Kreitzberg Library co-moderated by Center for Global Resilience and Security Senior Fellow William Lyons and Jillian Fortunati, a construction management major and president of Norwich University’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

”Kahwa and M.K.’s stories … speak to resilience, innovation and grit in ways we would love to see in each of our students.”Dr. Tara Kulkarni, director, Center for Global Resilience and Security

“The CGRS Senior Fellows epitomize what we want our students to aspire to,” said Dr. Tara Kulkarni,  the center’s director. “Kahwa and M.K.’s stories diverge in their educational pathways and career trajectories, and show us varying models of success. Most importantly, they truly speak to resilience, innovation and grit in ways we would love to see in each of our students.”

For the past decade, Klassen Merrigan, who began her career in humanitarian aid, led the development of advanced energy technology for U.S. military, security and peacekeeping forces operating beyond secure supply lines.

Norwich University Center for Global Resilience and Security Director Dr. Tara Kulkarni, left, listens to the center’s two new senior fellows Nov. 14 during a presentation at Kreitzberg Library. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Klassen Merrigan led a diverse team from a small prototype shop in Ferndale, Michigan, that developed several “firsts,” including the first off-grid solar microgrid of its size providing 24/7 power to a village, in Les Anglais, Haiti, the first off-grid environmental monitoring system for use by a major American power utility in the California desert and the first mobile renewable energy systems deployed by the Federal Aviation Authority, used for runway monitoring.

Since 2016, Klassen Merrigan has led LkM Solutions (“last kilometer”) a company devoted to energy security that works with Norwich University, the Association of the U.S. Army, multiple strategic task forces, and the U.S. Congress.

Douoguih, meanwhile, since 2008 has been managing partner of Constelor, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant for businesses interested in West African natural resource sectors, including energy and agriculture.

She has also served as chief mineral economist and partner for Earth Index, a Denver technology company bringing a big data analytics approach to oil and gas and mining executive decision-making and as chief operating officer for access.mobile, a Denver-based a mobile enterprise solutions company serving the private sector, governments and organizations working in agribusiness and health care worldwide.

Life lessons

In the hourlong panel, Douoguih and Klassen Merrigan modeled a collaborative spirit,  answering questions about their careers, their successes and failures and their plans to participate in Center for Global Resilience and Security activities.

Douoguih and Klassen Merrigan discussed the easy conversation that takes place among professionals who use their different perspectives to work on common problems. They also discussed mentoring. Douoguih advised audience members to welcome multiple and diverse mentors for different phases of their lives; Klassen Merrigan said she was a “collector of people” and that her mentors had “no expiration date.”

Norwich students chat among themselves on Nov. 14, 2019, during a presentation by the Center for Global Resilience and Security’s newest senior fellows at Kreitzberg Library. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Kulkarni said that by telling powerful stories and urging audience members to research, write and learn about themselves, CGRS’ new senior fellows underscored the value of education in all its forms — formal degrees and “in the field” experiential learning that harks back to the principles Capt. Alden Partridge used to found Norwich University 200 years ago.

Camryn Anderson, a Norwich sophomore engineering major, said the fellows’ commitment to mentorship and advice to seize chances resonated with her.

“Use every situation as a learning opportunity, and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty,” she said by email, describing her takeaway from the discussion. “(And) … never make any assumptions. Use the facts that you already know and ask questions to gain more information.”

Center for Global Resilience and Security Director Tara Kulkarni contributed to this report.

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