Diversity Webinar: Meet the Speakers

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif

SG with Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat. Swearingin ceremony.

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat), appointed by the Secretary‐General, following an election by the General Assembly on 22 December 2017. Ms. Sharif is currently Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia. Prior to her appointment as Mayor, she was the first woman to be appointed as President of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai in 2011. As mayor of a local authority, she leads Municipal Council of Seberang Perai to achieve its vision of a “cleaner, greener, safer and healthier place to work, live, invest and play”. Ms. Sharif began her career as a Town Planner at the Municipal Council of Penang Island in 1985. In 2003, she was promoted to Director of Planning and Development, a position she held until November 2009.

Dr Robert Crane

Robert Crane is a Professor of Geography at Penn State and the Associate Vice Provost for Global Programs. Rob served as the interim Vice Provost from January 2, 2019 until April 5th, 2020, and as the Associate Dean and interim Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 1993-2007. He served as Director of the Alliance for Education, Science Engineering and Development in Africa (AESEDA) from 2007 to 2015. During this time period he also helped develop Penn State’s strategy for global engagement and directed the university’s strategic partnership program. His research interests are in climate change and variability with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, where he has a long-term collaboration with the University of Cape Town’s Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG). Rob has also led or co-led 20 study abroad programs in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, the Bahamas, and Curacao. He teaches courses in climate systems, climate change, coral reef systems and island sustainability. Rob also chairs the Dive Control Board for Penn State’s Scientific Diving Program. https://sites.psu.edu/crane

Maria Coulter BEM

Maria Coulter: With a career spanning over 20 years in the industry as a Quantity Surveyor, Project Manager and Risk Manager, Maria’s interest in personal development led her to become a qualified Personal and Business Coach in 2012.

Maria is passionate about bringing positive, lasting change to the industry and launched Construction Coach in 2014 working with SME’s and micro-businesses to grow themselves, their businesses and their people through coaching and training. This includes writing and delivering Fairness, Inclusion and Respect training on behalf of The Supply Chain Sustainability School.

Maria won the first Women in Construction category at the 2016 Nottingham Post Women in Business awards and her on-line course for the Chartered Institute of Building on Ethics and Compliance in Construction came Highly Commended at the 2017 MemCom Awards.

To influence change Maria is also Chair of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) for the East Midlands, a Non-Executive Director on the Construction Industry Council national board, Chair of the CIC Diversity and Inclusion Panel and a member of the BRE Impartiality Committee.

Maria was also awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List for services to Diversity and Inclusion in the Construction Industry.

Dr Amy Freeman

Dr. Amy Freeman is the Director of the Penn State Millennium Scholars Program, an initiative that provides a strong learning community for undergraduates who are preparing to ultimately pursue doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This project is a part of a national collaborative effort, the Meyerhoff Adaptation Project, with partners including the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Millennium Scholars Program is sponsored through the Office of the Provost.

Prior to her appointment, Dr. Freeman served as Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at Tufts University, and as Assistant Dean in the College of Engineering at Penn State providing administrative direction for the Office of Engineering Outreach and Inclusion through cultivation of partnerships with corporations, alumni, university constituents and organizational alliances. Dr. Freeman has also served in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education directing student programs.

She holds a Master of Science degree in Architectural Engineering and a Ph.D. in Workforce Education. This unusual combination has provided her with a professional skill set that combines the technical and the social sciences. Dr. Freeman has spoken in numerous business, professional, and community venues. She has written and presented several papers on the importance of STEM education, diversity and technical skills in the US. She is a past President of both the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates (NAMEPA), and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), collaborative organizations focusing on increasing diverse technical talent in the US. She is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), sponsored through the White House, nominated in 2016.

She is also the author of, Stress Less: 10 Balancing Insights on Work and Life. As an advocate of personal peace, she emphasizes the importance of creating space for reflection and time to re-energize.

Dr Esther Obonyo

Dr. Esther Obonyo is the Director of Global Building Network at Penn State, as well as an Associate Professor of Engineering Design and Architectural Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. Prior to that she was an Associate Professor at the University of Florida’s (UF) Rinker School of Construction Management and also a faculty entrepreneurship Fellow at UF’s Warrington College of Business. She has worked as a Construction Engineer, Project Manager and Innovations Analyst in several Engineering and Construction Companies in Kenya, the UK and the US. She holds a BA in Building Economics from University of Nairobi, MA in Architecture from University of Nottingham and a Doctor of Engineering from Loughborough University. Esther’s research interest cuts across the following themes: climate change and extreme weather events, environmental sustainability, intelligent information and knowledge-based systems for productivity improvement and entrepreneurship. Dr Obonyo has had several NSF awards including an International Research Experiences for Students directed at Developing Global Scientist and Engineers.

Dr Deborah Pullen MBE

Deborah Pullen is a core member of the BRE Trust Council, providing leadership in setting the vision and strategy to maximise the Trust’s positive societal impacts. She is responsible for the Trust’s operations and programmes, which use gift aid to commission research, provide scholarships and disseminate outputs.

Deborah spent 20 years leading research teams and business units in the public and private sectors, and has also set up and led a number of national knowledge transfer networks. She was awarded an MBE in the 2014 Queen’s New Year Honours in recognition of her work in innovation and knowledge transfer in the built environment.