BEYA Award Recipient Dr. Keysha Cutts Pays it Forward

South Atlantic Division
Published Feb. 16, 2023
2 smiling people wearing red lifejackets with water in the background

Dr. Keysha Cutts in action with teammate Chad Eller.

Dr. Keysha Cutts has had a storied career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that started at a young age. “I knew when I went to high school, I wanted to be an engineer,” she says. “I like to play in the dirt!”

Cutts didn’t waste any time as she embarked on a career that would take her around the world. "I enjoy turning theory into practice," she says. "I didn't like math, but that didn't matter because I had a goal. We need more females in engineering to make it more diverse. Women add a different type of flavor."

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland she was selected for an internship with the Alaska District at the Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering (AMIE) annual conference. The AMIE program provides minority college students with the opportunity to have on the job experience with engineering and science professionals. "I moved from my mom’s house to Alaska all by myself," she says. "It was lonely, it was dark, it was cold, but it was the best experience of my life."

That internship turned into a permanent position that would see her successfully navigate major programs with Savannah District in 2003, Baltimore District in 2008, Far East District in 2008, Europe District in 2016 and Afghanistan District in 2018. She also continued advancing her education by earning a master’s degree in business administration in 2010 and a doctorate in organizational leadership in 2022 from the University of Phoenix.

During that first job with the Alaska District Cutts would be nominated for the first of many Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) awards. “At one time USACE had its own workshop at the BEYA conference and it gave employees like me a chance to meet influential leadership within our organization. I’ll never forget meeting one of the first black females who was an SESer (Senior Executive Service) within USACE and I think being able to see someone who looked like me, not just being a woman, but who also was an African American woman in the STEM field being able to succeed within USACE. It was very encouraging and made me understand I had greater opportunities within USACE, opportunities greater than I had imagined in the beginning.”

Those opportunities would continue to materialize. In 2008 Cutts was selected as the Senior Project Manager with the Far East District at Camp Humphreys, Korea, where she was responsible for execution of the $10 billion Yongsan Relocation Plan (YRP)/Land Partnership Plan (LPP) programs. This is also when she would come full circle with the AMIE program. In addition to managing one of the biggest programs in USACE she facilitated internships in Korea for AMIE minority college students. “I looked at those bright young faces and saw an earlier version of myself,” she said. “Allowing the AMIE interns to see classroom theory turned into practice and the significance of their individual contributions to project successes encourages them to continue toward great accomplishments within the engineering field and to strongly consider USACE for future employment opportunities. It’s a great feeling when you see a young person light up over the opportunities they once never knew existed. I hope I can inspire someone just like that SESer inspired me.”

Today, Cutts serves as the Medical Program Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), South Atlantic Division. In this role she is responsible for full range of Medical Military Construction (MILCON) and Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization (SRM) program integration, between 5 USACE Districts, the Department of Health Administration, The Department of Veterans Affairs and multiple Department of Defense funded programs, servicing the needs of the uniformed services and veterans.

“We just found out Keysha has been awarded the 2023 Stars and Stripes United States Federal Agency Leadership Award to be presented at the upcoming BEYA conference and we are so incredibly proud,” South Atlantic Division Commander Brig. Gen. Daniel Hibner said. “Keysha has proven herself as one of the best program managers within USACE. She is a natural and inspiring leader that motivates everyone around her.”