When Albuquerque District Commander Lt. Col. Gant figuratively talks about District employees being like a family, Monika Sanchez and Michelle and Melissa Mann take her literally.
The three sisters all work in the District. In fact, they all started out in the same area under the supervision of Deb Foley, Supervisory Program Manager in the Civil Project Management Branch (PMC) while they studied at the University of New Mexico. Monika and Michelle have gone on to pursue careers with the District and Melissa wants to do the same. “After I graduate with my biology degree, I would really like to continue working here as a biologist,” she said.
The first Mann sister, Monika, joined the District in 2005 when she started work in PMC under Foley while studying at the University of New Mexico. She has since worked in General Engineering and Plan Formulation; held a liaison position with the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program and completed a two year Department of the Army internship. Currently, Monika is a project manager in the Environmental Project Management section.
Monika graduated from UNM with a bachelor in Environmental Planning and Design. “My focus was watershed planning, flood damage reduction and erosion, ecosystem restoration, and urban development,” she said.
Monika’s current projects include the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program; Abandoned Mine Lands; Superfund Sites; Federally Used Defense Sites, also known as FUDS, as well as environmental projects at Holloman and Kirtland Air Force bases.
Michelle Mann learned about the District from Monika, who knew of her interest in environmental biology and encouraged her to apply for a position. Michelle was hired through the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) in a position in Civil Project Management also under the supervision of Foley.
“This was a great opportunity and position to begin my career with the Corps. Ms. Foley was a great supervisor and really supported me in my interest of environmental biology by allowing me to do field work with the Environmental Resource section while I worked for her,” Michelle said.
Michelle received her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Spanish from UNM in December 2011. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Management at UNM and plans to graduate in December 2013.
Right now Michelle is a biologist trainee in the Planning Branch. She said her time is split between the Corps Collaborative Program and the Environmental Resource Section.
“I am hoping my technical biology background, combined with a management degree, will open doors for me and allows my skills to be useful in a variety of departments within the Corps,” Michelle said.
In January 2012, Melissa joined her sisters at the Corps when she was hired through the STEP program. And just like her sisters before her, she is under Foley’s supervision.
Michelle said that when Melissa was hired, “it was a common joke that the Corps ‘Manned Up.’”
Melissa supports the District’s Civil Works mission and project managers as an Office Automation Clerk. She is working to finish her undergraduate degree at UNM in Biology with a minor in Spanish, just like Michelle. She said she likes working in Civil Works. “In helping the project managers with the preparation of documents I have learned so much about the projects.”
There is one disadvantage in working with family Michelle said. “Many people get our names mixed up and say we look a lot alike. Getting called each other’s names is a common practice in the Mann household so it is common that any of us will respond to being called Monika, Michelle, or Melissa.” She added, “With a last name like Mann, I always wished our parents would have been a little more creative when naming us. They could have had a family of superheroes and named us Bat Mann, Super Mann and Spider Mann.”
However the sisters agree that working together is a positive experience.
“I like being able to see one or both of my sisters everyday - whether it is going to lunch together or seeing them in the hallway, or helping them on a particular work matter. I am fortunate to have worked in both their positions during my employment here at the Corps so I can help them if they need with my past experience, networks and personal point of view,” Monika said.
Melissa said that she loves working with her sisters. Michelle concurred and added, “It means I always have a lunch date! Plus we get along great and love and support each other too.”
Besides getting to work with each other, each sister said they enjoy working with the Corps in Albuquerque. “I really like the section I am in and the people I work with - it’s a perfect fit for me. It is such a great learning environment for me and I really enjoy the work; it keeps me interested and motivated,” Monika said.
Michelle agreed that working for the Albuquerque District has been a great experience. “I have learned so much from working with subject matter experts with many different fields of expertise.”
Monika recently had a daughter, raising the possibility that the next generation of family could also work with the Corps.