Loretta Williams Gurnell, STEM influencer and literal SUPERWoman
Loretta Williams Gurnell

There’s a reason SUPERGirls Shine Foundation is a force to be reckoned with in terms of honoring its mission to place young girls on a trajectory towards knowledge of self, academic excellence and professional success, with an emphasis on STEM. That reason is its dynamic founder, Loretta Williams Gurnell

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This Houstonian by way of Ohio used her experiences in the classroom and longtime biological researcher to fashion a program that exposes young girls to the possibilities of STEM educational tracs and careers. And she shared with the Defender those things that make her a modern-day SUPERWoman.

DEFENDER: What did you want to be when you grew up?

LORETTA WILLIAMS GURNELL: As a child, initially, I wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. That was my goal. So, I did a surgical rotation as I was coming upon my senior year in college, and my mother had a heart attack. And in my community, we didn’t have the means. So, when my mom had the heart attack, I had to decide, how am I going to make money quick and fast because I had a younger sister and I needed to know that she was going to be good. So, I made a pivot and went into research. And that for me, was good. But with my personality, I knew I couldn’t stay in the lab. So, I did a pivot into education.

DEFENDER: For those who don’t know, what exactly is the SUPERGirls Shine Foundation?

LORETTA WILLIAMS GURNELL: It’s a pipeline for creating long-lasting talent and marketable professionals in the area of STEM who happen to be women. We are a strategic community partner with industries who are looking to diversify their pipeline with their professionals. We are a community partner with schools who are looking to advance opportunities for their students in the area of STEM. And we are a partner for philanthropic givers and those who want to share the wealth in areas and communities, which benefits the entire ecosystem.

DEFENDER: As an education advocate, what are you reading these days?

LORETTA WILLIAMS GURNELL: Oh my goodness. I’m reading a book on leadership called “Leadership You.” I’m also reading the word, and I’m also looking at this book. We’re supposed to be starting it soon. It’s about women in C-suite positions. I’m looking to see how that’s going to take us, because we want to do that as a team building experience.

DEFENDER: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing right now, professionally, what would you be doing?

LORETTA WILLIAMS GURNELL: Woo. That’s a very interesting question. I probably would be traveling the world, training and teaching about leadership, family and relationships. I’m really big on family. And I think we’ve gotten away from the root of what a family is and how we can really do this thing effectively in raising our children. So, that’s what I would do. And if someone is interested in hiring me, I’ll do it now. I don’t have to wait.


Hometown: Trotwood, Ohio

Education: Masters of Education with an emphasis on Leadership (Cornell University); BS in Biological Sciences (Central State University)

Favorite H-Town Restaurant: Paris

Favorite Off-the-Clock Activity: “Riding my bike outside.”

Favorite Genres of Music & Artists: “Jazz and Neo-Soul. And artists, Loretta Williams Gurnell, Jill Scott and India.Arie.”

Mantra: “Vision is intentional. See, without a vision, people will perish, and without faith work is dead. But if you don’t have the vision and you don’t put intentionality behind it, all of it is for naught. So, I’ve got to put the steps behind the work and I’ve got to have the faith to be able to do the work.”

Social Media: SuperGirlsShine.com

Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...