When asked what brought them to Drexel, alumni give a variety of answers. Often, it’s the co-op program, or the reputation of its programs. But for Vanessa Brown-Nedrick BS ’00, MS ’09, it felt more like fate.
Brown-Nedrick, a Philadelphia native, grew up loving math and science and the problem-solving challenges that they offered. As a high schooler, she took part in a program offered by Women in Natural Sciences at the Academy of Natural Sciences, years before it became part of Drexel. There, she earned an internship studying seashells and how their size, shape and sturdiness were affected by the environment.
“I had no idea that something as simple as seashells could tell you so much,” she recalls. “Learning in that internship really opened my eyes to engineering, especially as it applies to bodies of water.”
When it came time to choose a college, Brown-Nedrick went to a state school because she wanted to move away from home, but after a few years her parents challenged her to move home and attend Drexel to finish her degree.
“Transferring was tough at first, because I wasn’t sure that Drexel was going to accept many of my credits,” Brown-Nedrick says. “But now retired professor Dr. Joe Martin took my transcript down to the registrar’s office and walked them through which classes at my previous college aligned with other classes at Drexel. Because of his help, I was able to finish my degree in just two more years.”
Brown-Nedrick quickly landed a job as an engineering specialist with the Philadelphia Water Department, where she served for nearly seven years. But a promotion was hard to come by so she knew that she needed to enhance her education. By then a married mother of four, including twin newborns, she needed a graduate program that would work for her. Once again, Drexel was the way.
“I remembered in my undergraduate commencement ceremony, then-president Papadakis encouraged us to explore Drexel’s new online graduate offerings,” she says. “Drexel had a great online program for engineering management, and I knew from my undergraduate experience that I could handle an accelerated pace.”
The master’s helped Brown-Nedrick land a senior associate job at Remington & Vernick Engineers, one of the oldest engineering consultancies in the country. The company provides design, planning, construction management and inspection services for their clients. Brown-Nedrick has managed and designed various projects for municipalities, such as water and sewer systems, stormwater management, road rehabilitations, facility assessments, studies, etc., and recently, led a project that made sections of Philadelphia’s City Hall compliant with ADA regulations.
“There’s so many different disciplines that I deal with on a daily basis,” Brown-Nedrick says. “Drexel taught me the mental toughness and the agility to jump between projects without losing a step.”
Brown-Nedrick’s work did not go unnoticed by her employers. In January of 2022, she was made an owner at Remington & Vernick, becoming the first Black female to reach that level in the firm’s 120-year history. She says that she finds both honor and responsibility in the designation.
“Representation matters,” Brown-Nedrick says. “Seeing a Black woman in a leadership position at a firm like Remington & Vernick can suddenly help young Black women and other underrepresented communities see themselves reaching this level.”
To help drive diversity in STEM fields, Brown-Nedrick is recalling her earliest days and going to schools to give demonstrations and talk with students interested in STEM. She is also a facilitator for an SAT prep program.
“Students should know that science is something to be excited about,” she says. “If I can share my passion with them, then maybe one day they’ll be doing the same with the next generation.”