TAMEST Staff Profile: Destiny Allen, TAMEST Program Officer

Destiny Allen

TAMEST’s newest addition to the staff, Destiny Allen, Program Officer, recently moved from Arizona where she attended Arizona State University and received an M.S. in Sustainable Development and Technology. She has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector and has worked with the Peace Corps in West Africa as well as the Sierra Club in Columbus, Ohio.

Destiny says she has always been passionate about working with people and the opportunity to make a difference in the world through her work. She grew up in a working-class community in Clinton County, Ohio, where many pursued traditional paths. Destiny decided she wanted to make a bigger impact and got her B.S. in International Development and Environmental Science from Ohio State University. She says that it was her 3.5 years with the Peace Corps in West Africa that pushed her to embrace new experiences, leading her to Austin, Texas, where she continues to make an impact by helping to run various programs for TAMEST.

TAMEST connected with Destiny to learn more about her work for TAMEST and why she’s passionate about working on programs such as the Mary Beth Maddox Award and Lectureship and the importance of mentorship for individual success.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a first-generation college student, proud of my roots in a working-class community in Clinton County, Ohio. While many in my hometown pursued traditional paths like farming or factory work, I envisioned a different future for myself. The Great Recession of 2008 began two years before I graduated high school which made it exponentially more challenging to go to college. Clinton County had an unemployment rate of 3% before the Recession and in 2008 and 2009 had an unemployment rate of 19.5%, among the worst in the country. Despite the challenges, I pursued higher education at The Ohio State University, graduating with a B.S. in International Development and Environmental Science. My determination to break from the status quo led me to explore diverse fields, evidenced by my minors in Dance and Humanitarian Engineering.

Following graduation, I embraced new experiences, working with the Sierra Club in Columbus, Ohio, before embarking on a transformative journey with the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa. During my 3.5 years there, I engaged in impactful community projects focused on environmental action and public health. However, the unforeseen challenges of COVID-19 forced my evacuation alongside thousands of other volunteers. Subsequently, I pursued further education, earning an M.S. in Sustainable Development and Technology from Arizona State University in December 2021. My graduate research focused on the socioeconomic benefits of donated technology within Phoenix’s refugee community. Following graduation, I worked at ASU for two years before relocating to Texas, eager to continue making a difference in new surroundings.

You just moved here from Arizona, what made you move to Texas?

I relocated to Texas from Arizona primarily because of my roommate, who I met during our Peace Corps service. She has been residing in Austin for the past five years, and after visiting her last year, I fell in love with the city. Encouraged by her, I decided to explore opportunities in Austin, and I was drawn to its unique charm as a small city.

Why did you decide to come and work for TAMEST?

I chose to apply to TAMEST because I was eager to transition back into the nonprofit sector after my experiences in government and higher education. What particularly drew me to TAMEST were the programs I would be involved in overseeing. The Mary Beth Maddox Award resonated with me because of its focus on women, who are often underrepresented in academia, particularly in STEM fields. Additionally, I was intrigued by the Protégé Program because I firmly believe in the importance of mentorship for individual success. I strongly advocate for advancing others as we progress in our own careers. Since joining TAMEST, I’ve found great satisfaction in my role and am confident that moving to Texas was the right decision for me.

What experience do you have running programs?

I have a diverse range of experience in running programs across different organizations. During my time at Sierra Club, I spearheaded the Clean Water Campaign, which involved organizing workshops to educate communities on topics such as rain barrel installation, recycling practices, and methods for identifying pollutants in waterways.

In my role with the Peace Corps, I served as the coordinator for the Community Health program, where I facilitated training sessions for volunteers and their local counterparts in Togo. These sessions focused on implementing health projects within their communities.

At Arizona State University, I managed both the Sustainability and Student Grant programs. Within the Sustainability program, I oversaw student-led initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability on campus. Additionally, I administered the Student Grant program, where students could apply for funding to support their projects, and I provided guidance throughout the grant process.

What makes you most passionate about your work?

What truly fuels my passion for my work is the opportunity to connect with others, whether it’s my colleagues or individuals participating in the programs I oversee. Throughout my career, I’ve consistently found that people are the most significant aspect of any job for me. I’m grateful that the 2024 Annual Conference occurred shortly after I joined TAMEST, as it provided an excellent chance to engage with my fellow TAMEST staff, members, participants in the Protégé Program, and notably, Nidhi Sahni, Ph.D., The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the recipient of the 2024 Mary Beth Maddox Award and Lectureship.

Talk about the TAMEST Protégé Program and why members should nominate?

People should nominate protégés for the TAMEST Protégé Program because it offers a unique opportunity for early-career researchers in Texas to connect with and learn from top professionals in their field. The program provides mentorship from TAMEST members and exposure to research at the annual conference, fostering professional growth and networking opportunities. Moreover, past protégés have achieved notable success, including receiving the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, demonstrating the program’s potential for launching careers and advancing scientific excellence. By nominating protégés, individuals contribute to nurturing the next generation of researchers and leaders in Texas.

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards have recognized more than 75 rising star researchers in our state since it was established in 2006. What makes the awards so special?

The awards are prestigious honors that recognize rising Texas researchers for their exceptional contributions to science and technology. Winners receive a $25,000 honorarium and the opportunity to present at the TAMEST Annual Conference. Notably, past recipients have often been elected to the National Academies. The recent expansion of the awards to include an additional science category underscores their commitment to celebrating excellence across diverse scientific fields in Texas.

The Mary Beth Maddox Award and Lectureship honors Texas women innovating cancer research. Why is highlighting women specifically in cancer research important? 

Highlighting women specifically in cancer research is important for several reasons. Firstly, women have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields, including cancer research, despite making significant contributions. Recognizing and celebrating their achievements helps to address this imbalance and provides role models for aspiring female scientists.

Secondly, women may bring unique perspectives and approaches to cancer research, leading to innovative solutions and advancements in the field. By highlighting their work, we can promote diversity of thought and foster a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of cancer biology and treatment strategies.

Additionally, showcasing women in cancer research helps to address gender disparities in funding, recognition and career advancement within the scientific community. By elevating their achievements through awards like the Mary Beth Maddox Award and Lectureship, we can contribute to creating a more equitable and supportive environment for women researchers.

What do you do outside of work for fun?

I’m passionate about outdoor activities! You’ll often find me hiking, biking and kayaking during evenings and weekends. I also have an interest in kickboxing and dance. In fact, I used to be part of a dance company in Phoenix, where I performed regularly. I’m still looking for my connection to dance in Austin. I am hoping to at least be able to take classes soon.


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