October 27, 2020 News & Features » Cover Story

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Jenilee Stanley-Shanks, 39 

Director of Government and Community Outreach, College of Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

click to enlarge feat44_jenilleshanks.jpg

Scott Elmquist

For most fifth- or sixth-graders, the leap between elementary and middle school to high school and college is hard to imagine, not to mention a career in engineering or a related field. But Stanley-Shanks uses her well-honed skills and passion to acquaint students, parents and teachers in our region with high school curriculum tracks that can prepare youngsters for careers in engineering or technology.

“These are professions and fields in which we still don’t have enough people in Virginia for needed positions,” she says. In addition to work at Georgia Tech before coming to Virginia, Stanley-Shanks believes that her experiences gleaned from undergraduate studies in theater and a master’s degree in public policy enhance her personal communication with people and constituent groups.

“You have to be vulnerable,” she says of actors and directors. “You need to drop your walls and have a high tolerance for failure. That is also true for engineering students.” With the pandemic, Stanley-Shanks is connecting with area schools via Zoom. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” she says.  Adds a colleague: “She is an unrepenting engineering geek.”

Back to the 2020 Top 40 Under 40

Correction: The print version misspelled Jenilee's first name. Style regrets the error.

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