Black History Month reminds us to honor and reflect on the central role of Black Americans and African Americans in American history. We’re featuring one employee each week to celebrate Black and African American excellence within our DTE family. 

“If you want to broaden your lens and really support the communities you work within, you have to do something different than what you’ve done for hundreds of years.” –Cornelia Butler 

When Cornelia Butler, manager of Group Performance Management, noticed a gap in Distribution Operations’ co-op program recruitment, she took action. To fill vacant co-op and full-time positions with top-quality talent while also bringing in people with diverse perspectives, she turned to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to fulfill DTE’s needs. 

In the past, most of DO’s engineering recruitment relied on local colleges and universities, like the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. But as a HBCU graduate, Cornelia knew there was top quality talent that wasn’t being tapped into. I was always passionate about our co-op programs, and I knew this was our pipeline to developing a more diverse workforce to bring different ideas and skillsets to our work,” said Cornelia.  

“You have to hire diversity through senior level positions if you want teams with different perspectives, passions and unique approaches,” said Cornelia. “I think those are the building blocks for us to be better at what we do and to feel good about what we do.” 

With the support of her leaders, Cornelia worked with colleagues and developed a plan to recruit Black talent from HBCUs. “I wanted to provide solutions for DTE while breaking down barriers of inequity,” said Cornelia, “and my leader, Joe Musallam, supported my ideas and gave me the confidence to get things done.” 

Along with her colleagues, Denise SampsonTerrell Lockhart, both HBCU graduates, and Charles Fowlkes, Cornelia built relationships with four HBCUs and interviewed 24 candidates. DTE hired 16 co-ops and from these schools in 2020, and intends to continue recruiting there in 2021. 

“The most important aspect of these efforts is that it’s not a one and done event; it has to be part of DTE’s legacy, woven into what we do every day,” said Cornelia. “We’re here now, and we’re not going anywhere.”