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Internship that honors Pauline Dande, a young staff member who passed away, begins this summer

An internship is being established in the Human Resources (HR) Department of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in honor of a young HR staff member who passed away last year, the executive director of HR said.

The internship honors Pauline Dande, an HR staff member known for throwing herself into her work who passed away of sickle cell anemia and liver disease on Sept. 25, 2020, at the young age of 26.

Jordan Vannoy, executive director of Human Resources and Organizational Development, is working with Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations, which has a program in human resource management, to establish the internship, which will begin this summer. The internship will train and mentor a student who plans a career in human resources.

Dande worked at Rutgers for several years before coming to PPPL, two years before she passed away. She was pursuing her bachelor’s degree. After considering a major in mathematics, computer science, and statistics, she found she was happiest taking human resources classes at Rutgers. She was enrolled in the Associate Professional in Human Resources Certification Program at the time of her passing.

“Pauline was passionate about pursuing a career in human resources and was a life-long learner,” Vannoy said. “It is our hope that this internship not only honors her memory but also inspires the future workforce of HR professionals.”

Asenath Dande, Pauline’s mother, said she was touched by the internship, which Vannoy announced at Dande’s memorial service in September. “She’d been there for only a short time but I am so happy to hear all the good things and the impact she made and how valued she was,” Dande said. “All of that makes me feel really good.”

Dande grew up in North Brunswick, New Jersey, with younger sisters Verine, 25, and Naomi, 13. Although she was born with sickle cell anemia and was frequently hospitalized as a child, she was actively involved in numerous activities. She managed the girls’ basketball team at North Brunswick Township High School. She was involved in the New Brunswick Seventh Day Adventist Church, where she was a leader and member of the Adventurers Club and Pathfinder Youth Club. She also raised money for poor and vulnerable girls and women in Kenya. “She loved life and she wanted to get involved in everything,” her mother said.

The daughter of Kenyan immigrants, Dande visited Kenya with her mother and returned as a young adult to visit Kenya. She loved traveling and visited cities all over the United States. She also enjoyed spending time with friends and making new ones as far as in Jamaica and other parts of the world. 

Dande worked for several years at Rutgers University in various positions, including in the office of the chancellor. “I noticed her work ethic very early on; she was entrusted with a lot of high-level responsibilities,” her mother said. 

She came to PPPL as a temporary employee and was hired a few months later. In nearly two years, Dande became close with her Human Resources colleagues. Vannoy recalled how her smile could always brighten the mood. “She’d walk into a room, always smiling and whatever we were talking about, everyone would look at her and return her smile,” Vannoy recalled. “She just had a way of bringing people together,” recalled Shaina George, a senior recruiting officer in Human Resources who shared an office with Dande.

Dande also forged relationships with others across many departments at PPPL. She started the Young Professionals Network (YPN), which began as a group of young people socializing after work and is now an established employee resource group dedicated to professional development and networking. “I think she would be really excited with us moving forward with it,” said YPN organizer Haley Wetzel, a safety engineer in Environment, Safety and Health. “It just makes me really happy.”

Asenath Dande said her daughter would have been happy to see the YPN get off the ground and she said the internship is a fitting tribute. “We try to focus on the positives and to remember the good things,” she said. “She did so much good in such a short time.”

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which  is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.


U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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