Springfield, MO

2012 40 Under 40 Honoree: Kristen Westerman

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Kristen Westerman is not afraid to look an issue in the eye and find a solution.

At the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the manager of work force development is tackling diversity, a priority issue identified by chamber officials.

“Although this is, at times, a contentious issue in our community, I feel that it’s the right thing to do in order for our community to continue to grow and prosper,” Westerman says.

Westerman recruits participants and arranges the speakers for the chamber’s two-day Facing Racism Program, which she completed in 2011.

“Recognition of the issue is the first step in taking initiative to helping find solutions to the problem,” she says.

Up next for Westerman and the chamber is creating a task force to engage minority professionals with chamber efforts and identifying a staff member and a board member to participate in the Minorities in Business group.

Her work with the diversity program came on the heels of successfully launching The Network, a chamber networking group for young professionals ages 21 to 40. In 2006, Westerman was charged with developing the group, in part to curtail the city’s “brain drain,” and it launched the next year with 300 members.

“This organization is helping the community’s young professionals to make the connections they need and want, which in turn will influence their decision to stay in Springfield,” she says.

Westerman then applied her experiences with The Network to start an intern version in 2010 called “We’ve had nearly 60 participants in that program and are excited to be able to offer it again this summer,” she says, noting that some participants took jobs and stayed in Springfield after graduation.

Westerman also serves on the steering committee for the P-20 Council of the Ozarks, a partnership of educators, employers, community members and policymakers formed in 2010 to improve the transition from education into the work force.

She and her husband, Luke, have ventured into business ownership with their 2011 purchase, along with partner Jim Conley, of the Computer Recycling Center.

“This is something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time and were just waiting for the right opportunity to arise,” she says.

Click here for full coverage of the 2012 40 Under 40.

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