Initiatives & Awards


Highlighted below are initiatives that link goals, objectives, and actions to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and increase accessibility to the Laboratory and its resources. The initiatives are organized in three categories. DEIA-related awards follow, reflecting ORNL’s progress in creating a welcoming environment that nurtures and values each employee.

Accountability & Support

  • Employee Concerns. ORNL provides an objective and independent avenue for staff to express concerns and have them constructively addressed when routine forms of communication are not successful or desired.
  • Grievance Process. For ORNL represented staff, Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) outline a grievance procedure to be followed by the employee and management when disagreements about the application of terms within the CBA occur.
  • I Care/We Care. Using an anonymous reporting avenue, employees and non-employees can report anything they see or experience while onsite that they believe is a safety risk and the issue is delivered to a committee for resolution.
  • Immigration Services Office. The Immigration Services Office holds international coffee hours and specific Q&A times for foreign staff, helping create a strong support system for ORNL’s foreign national employees to assist them with challenges they may face.
  • Lab Agenda & Performance Management. ORNL’s Lab Agenda, the organization’s annual performance plan, includes a “people advantage” focus with DEIA-related goals. The agenda is cascaded to employees to reflect in their individual performance plans.
  • Surveys. ORNL collects employee opinions, ensuring that ORNL initiatives and efforts align with actual and perceived needs. Surveys allow for discovery, gap analysis, action planning, communication, execution, and continuous improvement.
  • Values Recognition. Weaving the Core Values into everyday life at ORNL is driven in part by the Values Recognition Program that allows employees to recognize one another for demonstrating a particular value. Nominations are shared broadly through a variety of communications tools to elevate awareness of the behaviors demonstrated.
  • Wellness. ORNL’s Wellness Program regularly shares healthy lifestyle information and behavioral health and wellness resources with staff. The program also hosts wellness activities throughout the year.

Learning & Development

  • Early Career Development. ORNL is piloting a new program for Distinguished Staff Fellows, DOE Early Career Research Program awardees, directorate-based Laboratory Directed Research and Development awardees, and others to accelerate professional development and thoroughly orient participants to ORNL and resources of the Lab and DOE.
  • Employee/Manager Training. ORNL training programs continually evolve to span the entire employment lifecycle and they incorporate DEIA topics such as unconscious bias; driving inclusive interactions, culture, and behavior; communicating expectations and accountability; change management; culture transformation; and ORNL’s core values, teambuilding, mentoring, and coaching.
  • Experience ORNL. Employees who are new to campus or need a refresher on life at ORNL can enjoy activities, presentations, facility tours, and community-engagement and holiday events to familiarize themselves with the ORNL culture, history, and mission. 
  • Mentorship. A Lab-wide mentorship program is being reformatted with established mentorship standards and metrics to provide improved mentoring and coaching for all staff.
  • New Employee Orientation & Onboarding. ORNL shares its DEIA priorities with new employees through New Employee Orientation and onboarding activities and sessions incorporating information about ORNL’s Core Values, DEIA plan, and associated expectations.
  • PIER Plans. The DOE Office of Science requires that principal investigators develop a unique PIER (Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research) Plan for certain proposals submitted in response to Funding Opportunity Announcements and National Laboratory Announcements. The new requirement aims to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion on the project level. ORNL maintains a webpage with various resources to assist with understanding the requirements and creating PIER plans.

Partnerships & Outreach

  • Ambassador Program. ORNL nurtures relationships with organizations that enable us to recruit diverse students. The Ambassador Program is a pilot effort that focuses on ORNL strengthening engagement with minority serving institutions (MSIs) and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that align with the Laboratory’s research mission.
  • Community Engagement. ORNL is committed to being a good neighbor and community engagement and corporate giving programs provide opportunities for the Laboratory to support the local communities, including minority and underserved populations.
  • Innovation Crossroads. This DOE Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program enables competitively selected early-stage entrepreneurs to use ORNL’s capabilities to advance energy-related technologies. The program is expanding its partnership with the GEM Fellowship Program to recruit American Indian, African American, and Hispanic American participants to the program. 
  • Jump into STEM. ORNL participates in JUMP into STEM, which seeks to inspire the next generation of building scientists, focusing on creative ideation and diversity in the building science field. The program emphasizes inclusion of underrepresented groups including, but not limited to, those based on race, ethnicity, and gender.
  • National GEM Consortium. ORNL’s decades-long partnership with the National GEM Consortium brings to the Laboratory a mix of talented and highly gifted applied science and engineering graduate students from underrepresented communities.
  • Small Businesses. ORNL’s Small Business Programs Office works to develop significant, measurable increases in small, small disadvantaged, women-owned, Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), veteran-owned, and service-disabled veteran owned businesses.
  • STEM Training & Education. Offerings fall under two main umbrella programs:  1) educational programs for workforce development and STEM education purposes, including research internships, graduate research fellowships, and a visiting faculty program, and 2) career pathway programs that include technical and professional internships, co-operative opportunities, and summer schools for workforce development.
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities. ORNL continues to explore opportunities with this group after hosting in 2022 the “Future Workforce Development in Energy Storage Workshop – Round Table Discussion with Tribal Colleges and Universities.”
  • University Partnerships. This program leverages successful strategies for developing sustained, institutional diversity-oriented partnerships, providing Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) greater accessibility to DOE resources and capabilities, impacting underserved communities and the future STEM workforce, supporting science strategies, and addressing technical needs at ORNL, through effective partnership with consortia, ambassador, and core universities.   


Freedom Award

In 2022, the Department of Defense selected UT-Battelle for the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

The award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

Minority Engineer Magazine 2022 Top 20 Government Employers List

UT-Battelle made the Minority Engineer Magazine 2022 Top 20 Government Employers List.

2021 HIRE Vets Medallion Award

UT-Battelle received the gold medallion award from the Department of Labor’s HIRE Vets program in 2021 for excellence in recruiting, employing and retaining our nation’s heroes.

Top Supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) 2022

ORNL was named a top supporter of HBCUs in 2022 by a panel of deans of HBCU engineering programs and the Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering corporate-academic alliance. The Laboratory was also recognized as a Top Supporter for 2021, 2018 and 2014. In addition, ORNL was named an All-Time Top Supporter as part of the awarding organization’s 15-year anniversary list in 2017. During this 15-year period, ORNL was recognized eight individual times, making the All-Time Top Supporter Gold list.

National GEM Consortium
Best Employer Award

This award recognizes employers for their engagement in interviewing and selecting GEM candidates.

Great Minds in STEM Awards

To date, five ORNL employees have received the prestigious Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation and Luminary Awards.

Pro Patria award

In 2020, ORNL received the Pro Patria award for outstanding support of employees who are reserve members of the US Armed Forces.

Excellence in Philanthropy

In 2019, ORNL received this award from the Tennessee Board of Regents.

FY20 Champions of Veteran Enterprise Award

ORNL received this award from the National Veteran Small Business Coalition for its efforts to utilize service-disabled veteran–owned small businesses.

Other notable awards and recognitions

DOE Secretary’s Diversity Best Practice Award (2001, 2007) 

DOE Secretary’s Star Performance Award (2001) 

Economic & Community Development Award – TN Legislative Black Caucus (2002) 

DOE HBCU and Special Recognition Awards (2003) 

DOE M&O Small Business Innovation Award (2007) 

DOE Mentor-Protégé Program Agreement with Morehouse College (2007 – 2010) 

DOE Mentor-Protégé Program Agreement with Jackson State University (2007 – 2010) 

White House Initiative on HBCUs Leadership Award (2008) 

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education President’s Award (2008) 

Morehouse College Federal Champion Award (2009) 

Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Partnership Award (2009) 

DOE Mentor-Protégé Program Agreement with Southern University and A&M College (2011 – 2014, 2014 – 2017)