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It’s not just a man’s world

Published: 04/21/17 8:27AM
By: bradleyc

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Lisa Golphin, a 1997 Fort Valley State University agricultural engineering technology (AET) alumnus, is the first female engineer to be hired by the Macon Water Authority.  

The Macon Water Authority (MWA) is tasked with providing clean, quality and safe drinking water to more than 155,000 residents of Macon-Bibb County. Fort Valley State University alumna Lisa (Campbell) Golphin is one of the key personnel who ensures MWA operations run smoothly.

Golphin, the first female engineer to be hired by the authority, is a 1997 agricultural engineering technology (AET) graduate. She was recently promoted to the position of senior executive assistant of strategic planning. In her role she is responsible for identifying project objectives and goals for the MWA’s six strategic focus areas, planning strategic efforts, marketing the authority and serving as a liaison to local media outlets.

A native of Thomasville, Ga., Golphin is one of many south Georgians to attend FVSU. A number of her teachers, fellow church members and neighborhood residents also attended the university. “Often, (teachers and alumni) would arrange trips for us to attend homecoming events and tours to Fort Valley State University. I truly felt that Fort Valley State University had the best curriculum that I needed to be successful in my career field,” she said. “Growing up in an agricultural area, the environment at the university was the best fit for me and the goals that I wanted to accomplish as an agricultural engineer.”

While in middle and high school, Golphin worked on her family’s 28-acre farm near Dixie, Ga. “We actually raised goats on our property for a little while. I always enjoyed working with my father, Wallace Campbell, installing electrical fencing for those goats. That was a skill that my dad taught me earlier on. He believed that knowledge and education was a true catalyst for success,” she said.  “We spent hours placing stakes, securing fencing, ensuring the electrical outlets were in the right ports and testing the system to determine if it worked properly so we could keep the goats enclosed in certain areas.”

Golphin said she is a hands-on person who likes to fix things, and that weighed heavily in her selection of AET as her major at FVSU. She believes that the agricultural engineering curriculum offers a comprehensive range of skills from hydraulics to civil engineering, mechanization and electrical engineering. “It offers such a wide range of skills that it always allows you the opportunity to go anywhere in the job market. It affords pathways that would normally not be available in a designated career field,” she said.

Although engineering is typically considered a male-dominated field, Golphin says she learned how to “fit in with the boys” at an early age. Growing up with six uncles and two male cousins helped to hone Golphin’s competitive nature.

“If they climbed a tree, I climbed the tree. If they raced cars, I raced cars. If they shot marbles, I shot marbles. If they played basketball, I played basketball,” said Golphin, a self-proclaimed tomboy.

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The FVSU alumna credits three professors for inspiring her to do well in the classroom and now in the field. She also says their teachings are instilled in her to this day.

Dr. Chau Nguyen, former head of FVSU Agricultural Engineering program and Golphin’s then-adviser, advocated perseverance. “Dr. Nguyen always encouraged you to do your best and give 120 percent in whatever you aspire to do,” Golphin said. 

Golphin also credits Dr. Curtis Borne, FVSU professor of agricultural education. Borne fondly recalls Golphin’s class participation. “Lisa was a very reliable and hardworking student. She did excellent work in my lecture classes and was one of the best welders in my lab,” Borne said. Additionally, both of her daughters have had the honor of being taught by Borne during 4-H Summer Camp activities hosted by FVSU.

Finally, Golphin cites Dr. Mark Latimore Jr., FVSU's Extension administrator, known for his early morning plant and soil science classes. “He (Latimore) would require that you wake at the crack of dawn to take soil samples. Clay and loamy samples drove me crazy,” Golphin said, smiling.

After graduation, Golphin did not have to wait long for a job. She interned with Ford Tractor Company (now New Holland Agriculture) for three summers and immediately started working for the company after graduation. There, she was employed as an engineer on their Combine and Tractor Team before moving to the Government and Fleet Sales Division. She then transferred to the Chicago office, where she served as a district manager for their Industrial and Construction Fleet Sales Division.

Golphin says the personal touch FVSU provides to its students greatly prepared her for her position at the MWA, a learning atmosphere not possible at larger schools where the student-faculty ratio is much higher and one-on-one instruction is limited.

“That’s one of the main aspects that I liked about Fort Valley State. All of the instructors treat each student as an individual, which is important to today’s millennials. You receive hands-on experience which truly prepares you for your career field. They are committed to excellence and encourage you to do your best in all things,” Golphin said.

When she’s not handling her duties at the MWA, Golphin enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her family and friends. She also uses her mechanical expertise to make small repairs in her household, using her personalized, pink toolbox. Golphin is a member of Macon’s Career Women’s Network (CWN), an organization dedicated to encouraging women to become community leaders, building networking relationships, and enhancing the effectiveness of professional women in various careers. 

Golphin and her husband, Derrick, have two daughters, Madison and Morgan.